Steps to Starting a Business in Canada

Starting a Business in Canada Step by Step

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Image (c) Dave McLeod/ Susan Ward

Starting a business in Canada may seem overwhelming at first. There are just so many things to do! This guide to the starting a business resource on the Small Business Canada site is designed to help you make your dream of becoming an entrepreneur a reality.

Each step of this guide links to detailed information that will show you how to complete that step. The steps are roughly in order but you don't need to follow the order slavishly when you’re starting a business.

It really doesn't matter if you complete step 3, for instance, before you complete step 2.

Steps to Starting a Business in Canada

1) Come up with a good business idea.

One thing that's the same about starting a business in Canada as anywhere else is that you need a good business idea first. Follow the link above to find collections of small and home-based business ideas you can browse through, how to come up with winning business ideas of your own, and how to test the viability of your business idea once you've chosen one.

2) Write a business plan.

My Writing a Business Plan series that starts with this Business Plan Outline will lead you through the process of writing each section of the business plan. You'll find more information, including links to sample business plans, in the Business Plans section of this website.

3) Choose a winning name for your business.

When choosing a business name, there are two things to consider; the business name's marketing potential and its legal elements.

The link above will take you to the information you need to choose the best possible business name for your new business when you're starting a business in Canada.

4) Choose a form of business ownership.

What forms of business ownership can you choose to legally structure your business when you're starting a business in Canada?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of the forms of business ownership? These resources will help you choose the best form of business ownership for your new business.

5) Register your business name.

Business name registration is a legal requirement for almost all businesses in Canada. Find out whether or not you have to register your new business's name and learn all the details about business name registration for new businesses in Canada here.

6) Find small business financing.

While many new small businesses are financed out of their owners' pockets, many others need an infusion of funds from other sources to get off the ground. This page presents the main small business financing options for financing a new business in Canada.

7) Get a business license.

While not necessary for all businesses, many new businesses will need to get business licenses before they can operate legally within their municipalities. If your city or town doesn't have a website, you can find the information in the blue pages of your phone book.

You may also need other licenses and permits depending on what kind of business you're starting. Industry Canada's BizPaL is a really useful tool for finding out what permits and licenses you'll need to do business.

Available in most provinces and territories, BizPaL will provide a personalized list of the business documents you need for all levels of government.

8) Register for the Goods and Services Tax/ Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST).

If your new small business's gross income exceeds $30,000, you will have to register for GST/HST. (Note that this Small Supplier exemption doesn't apply to all businesses: taxi and limousine services, for instance, always have to register for GST/HST.)

If you start operating your small business as a Small Supplier but find that it does make more than the $30,000 limit, When Do I Need to Register for the GST/HST? explains the Canada Revenue Agency's registration rules.

Even if you're not making much money to start, though, you may want to register for GST/HST immediately because of Input Tax Credits, which are basically your way of getting back the GST/HST your business has paid out on purchases for business use.

For more information on the GST/HST, visit Answers to Common GST/HST Questions and/or the GST/HST library.

9) Register for Provincial Sales Tax (PST).

Some provinces have not harmonized their sales taxes with the federal goods and services tax (GST) and in those provinces, you will also have to register to collect and remit the appropriate provincial tax.

If you are starting a business in Manitoba, Saskatchewan or British Columbia, you will need to register as a collector of provincial sales tax (PST). If you are starting a business in Quebec, you will need to register for Quebec Sales Tax (QST).

See:

How to Charge and Remit Retail Sales Tax in Manitoba

How to Charge and Remit Provincial Sales Tax in Saskatchewan

Does Your Business Need to Register for BC PST?

Also, How to Invoice With PST includes an invoice sample that you may find useful.

The PST/RST library includes links to provincial sales tax information in various provinces, to make it easier for you to register for, and learn how to collect and remit provincial sales tax in your province.

10) Prepare to have employees.

When you're starting a business, hiring employees may be the furthest thing from your mind, but it's amazing how quickly a business can grow.

Learn what you have to do to legally hire someone in Canada.

Get ready to do payroll with my Guide to Canadian Payroll Deductions which includes direct links to Canada Revenue Agency resources such as the Payroll Deductions Online Calculator.

Once you have employees, your business will probably need to register with the Worker's Compensation Board in your province. My Guide To Workers' Compensation Insurance explains who has to register for Workers' Compensation insurance and how to register; Workers' Compensation Insurance has links to the Worker's Compensation Boards in every province, where you can register online in some cases.

Find out more about hiring employees, employment standards, E.I. and other employee issues in my Human Resources Management Library.

The Payroll Taxes section includes Employer's Guides, T4 slips, the ROE - all the forms and details you need to manage your employees' payroll deductions.

11) Buy other kinds of business insurance.

Protect your new business by making sure that you have the kinds of business insurance you need. Do You Have The Business Insurance You Need? explains what property, liability, business interruption, key people, and disability insurance are. Find out more about these types of business insurance in the Insurance library.

Learn about home-based business insurance and how to save money on the cost of business insurance in general in Home-Based Business Insurance.

12) Get your business records off to a good start.

If you keep good records from the first moment you open your business, things such as accounting and paying taxes become so much easier. Get your business records off to a good start with 7 Ways to Make Record Management Easy and 7 Ways to Control Chaos in Your Small Business.

Want to know more about accounting and/or bookkeeping? See these Accounting and Bookkeeping Resources. Learn how to set up filing systems and handle receipts with these Data Management articles. Find out more about business expenses and tax deductions in this collection of articles on Small Business Tax Deductions.

Where to from here?

The Starting a Business FAQs provides answers to common questions such as whether or not you need a business bank account and how to find small business start up money. Visit the Small Business Financing section for information on small business grants and loans.

Browse the Starting a Business library to read other articles about starting a business.

Two major concerns for people starting a business are management and marketing. The Marketing and Business Management hubs on Small Business: Canada contains many articles that will help you market your product or service and manage your new business successfully.

There is also a Business Terms Glossary that you may find useful. Best of luck in your new venture!