How to Register a Sole Proprietorship
1. Select Your Business Structure
As a prospective business owner, one of your first decisions is choosing a business structure that suits your needs. If you have already decided that it is not necessary for you to incorporate your business, you can choose between a sole proprietorship or a partnership.
A sole proprietorship is a business that is owned by one person and it is the easiest, least expensive type of business to start.
A partnership is a business that is owned by two or more people. It is also an easy and inexpensive type of business to start. There are two types of partnership: general and limited. In a general partnership, all the partners share in the profits and losses of the business and are personally and jointly responsible for all liabilities. In a limited partnership, there are both general and limited partners. Limited partners are not involved in the daily operation of the business and they are only personally responsible for losses up to the amount of capital they originally contributed to the business. General partners are responsible to operate the limited partnership and they are personally and jointly responsible for all liabilities.
2. Create a Business Name
Now that you have chosen the proper legal structure for your business, you will need to create a name for it, especially if your business provides goods or services to the public.
The best business names describe your business activity but they are not so specific that they preclude you from future business opportunities. Good names are also distinctive and help to differentiate your business.
Over time, your business name can become a valuable asset in that it can help build awareness, recognition, customer loyalty and goodwill.
When creating your business name, you should consider its modern counterpart at the same time: a domain name for use on the Internet. Even if your business will not be Internet-ready until some point in the future, you are well advised to reserve your preferred domain name now rather than risk losing it later or having to buy it back from someone else.
Business names for sole proprietorships and partnerships may not include legal identifiers such as “Limited, Ltd., Incorporated, Inc., Corporation, or Corp.” These are reserved exclusively for incorporated businesses as a sign to the public of their limited liability.
3. Determine Availability of Your Business Name
Before you can register your business name, you should ensure that you have a legal right to use it. This is normally accomplished by performing a name search.
The first and least expensive search is one you can perform yourself by looking through public information sources, such as phone directories, Yellow Pages and computerized online directories such as Canada 411.
The availability of prospective domain names can also be searched by completing a free WHOIS domain search here.
Searching your prospective name(s) yourself, before retaining professional services, could reveal potential conflicts immediately without incurring any expense.
If the free search does not reveal any conflicting names, you should retain a search house to perform a NUANS®
It is a good idea to have more than one prospective name ready, in case a search at any stage reveals a potential conflict.
4. Register Your Business Name
The next step is a legal one – all businesses, other than businesses located in the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador, must register their business names with the province in which they intend to operate. The only exception to this requirement is if a personal name is used as the name of a sole proprietorship. Please note that if one extra word is added to a personal name, the name becomes a business name and must be registered. For instance, “Jane Smith” can be used without registration, but “Jane Smith Software” will require registration.
There are three good reasons why you should register your business name:
You will need proof of business name registration when you open a business bank account
You want to be sure that you are not using someone else’s business name, in which case you may have to change yours and/or compensate the owner of the similar name
You want to establish recognition of, and goodwill toward, your chosen business name
5. Register for Permits, Licences and Taxes
All businesses, whether they operate from a commercial office or a private home, must comply with federal, provincial and municipal business laws and regulations, as well as collect and pay appropriate taxes.
At the municipal level, you may be required to obtain a business permit or licence. You should also enquire about any municipal bylaws that may have an effect on your operations, such as prohibitions against excessive courier deliveries to certain residential areas, health inspections for food-related businesses, etc.
Specialty licences to sell liquor, food, cigarettes and other goods may be required from different levels of government. In addition, many other types of specialized businesses such as security firms, taxi companies and places of amusement, etc. require specialized permits and/or licences. You should seek competent legal advice in order to acquire the necessary permits and licences.
If your business obliges you to collect Retail Sales Tax, you must register with your Province for a Vendor’s Permit and remit the sales tax collected according to the schedule established by your province.
If your business will have total sales exceeding $30,000 in a 12-month period, you are required to register to collect the Goods and Services/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST). The Canada Revenue Agency will assign you a GST/HST number upon registration and payment. Businesses with total sales of less than $30,000 annually are usually not required to register for GST/HST; however, it should be noted that having a GST/HST account may be to your advantage. Certain companies are reluctant to contract the services of businesses without a valid GST/HST number, partly because they may appear to be less stable and partly because those companies can deduct any GST/HST paid from their business expenses.