How to Register a Business Name in Canada

Do You Have to Register Your Business Name & How to Do It If You Do

Portrait of a store owner
Business registration done & open for business.. Image (c) Radius Images/ Getty Images

Do you want to start a business in Canada? Here's everything you need to know about registering your business name.

Do You Need to Register Your Business Name?

Yes, in almost all cases you will need to register your business name. Business registration is a legal requirement, not a choice.

Almost all businesses in Canada must register their business names in their respective provinces or territories except for sole proprietorships that use only the owner's legal name with no additions.

All other forms of business ownership, including partnerships, must register their business names.

(Newfoundland and Labrador are the exception to this general rule; in that province, you do not have to register the name of sole proprietorships or partnerships at all.)

So if I run my business under the name Susan Ward, I don't have to register my business name.

However, this business is going to be a sole proprietorship; I can't add anything to this name, such as "Inc." or "Co." or "& Partners". Nor can I add anything that would give potential customers/clients a clue about what I do.

If I decide to call my business something such as "Susan Ward's Consulting Services", I have to register my business name, even though I'm still running it as a sole proprietorship.

And not to pick on anyone's name here, but many people's names are not catchy or particularly easy to spell.

In sum, if you choose to operate your new business as a partnership, corporation or cooperative, you need to register your business name, and most sole proprietorships will want to register their business name, too.

How to Register a Business Name

In Canada, once you've chosen a form of business ownership, such as a sole proprietorship, you register your business by going through the process of registering your business with the appropriate provincial authority.

Want to register a business in Ontario? You need to register your business with the Companies Branch of the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services.

If you are starting a business in Nova Scotia, you need to register your business with the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies.

If you are starting a business in BC, you need to register your business with the Corporate Registry.

In all cases, the first step is to choose and register a business name, a process that often requires a name search.

From that point, the procedure you have to go through to register a business name depends on what form of business ownership you've chosen for your new business. (For information on the different forms of business in Canada, see choose a form of business.)

The basic procedure to register a business name for a sole proprietorship or partnership is to conduct a business name search, fill out the appropriate business registration form, and pay your fee. The Business Registration section of this website has links to all the different provincial registries to speed up this process for you.

Business Registration for Corporations

The procedure to register a business name for a corporation or cooperative is more involved.

Besides conducting a name search and getting a NUANS report if you wish to set up a named corporation, you will also have to prepare Articles of Incorporation, a cover letter and an incorporation application to go along with your fee.

How to Incorporate Your Business provides more details on how to register a business name for a corporation and explains the difference between federal and provincial incorporation.

If you have questions such as how much does incorporation cost, can you incorporate a business in one province and do business in others or how to set up share classes for your new corporation, see my Incorporation in Canada FAQs. This document also includes links to all the different provincial and territorial corporate registrars if you wish to incorporate in a particular province.

If incorporation is your chosen form of business ownership, you may also wish to read Getting Your New Corporation Up and Running, which explains what you need to do once you've completed the business registration step.

Business Registration in Each Province

Because business registration is governed by the provinces (with the exception of federal incorporation), the details of the procedure to register a business name will differ from place to place.

These articles provide detailed business registration instructions on how to register a business name in each province. Many include links you can use to register your business name online.

The Business Registration section of this website also includes information on how to register a business name in other provinces.

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