Duncan Craig LLP Lawyers Mediators

Business Startup

Steps to Consider

Incorporation is just one option when starting a business. Below are some next steps to consider as well as some links to help you navigate through your business start-up phase. If you have any questions about the below information, feel free to contact one of our business lawyers who will gladly walk you through this process.

Business Number

The BN is a nine-digit identifier for businesses to simplify their dealings with federal, provincial, and municipal governments in Canada. It aims to give each registered business its own unique number.

You only need a BN if you need one or more program accounts. A program account is an account you register for with the Canada Revenue Agency to deal with specific programs. The most common program accounts a business will need are GST/HST, payroll deductions, corporation income tax, and import-export.

If you already have a BN and you change the legal ownership or the structure of your business, you may have to register for a new BN. For more information, go to Changing your business status.

GST Number Registration

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to register for, and collect and remit, GST on sales of taxable supplies.

  • Mandatory if >$30,000 in taxable supplies
  • Voluntary if a "small supplier"

More details can be found at the CRA's website: Register for a GST/HST account

Business Licensing

  • Depending on the nature of your business, you may require a business licence issued by applicable federal, provincial and/or municipal authorities.

  • Provincial Licencing:
    • Businesses Licenced and Registered by Consumer Services (Alberta) -

    • Municipal Licencing:
      • Municipalities in Alberta generally require that a business:

        • (1) obtain a Business Licence, and
        • (2) operate from premises for which a suitable Development Permit has been issued.

      • Applicable fees and conditions for obtaining and maintaining the necessary licences vary depending on whether the business:

        • (1) is operated from a commercial or industrial location within the municipal boundaries,
        • (2) is a home-based business, or
        • (3) is non-resident (i.e. does not have a permanent base of operations within the municipal boundaries).

    Worker's Compensation Board Registration

    • Most employers are required to have worker's compensation insurance for their workers within 15 days of first hire, unless they operate exclusive in an exempt industry. Directors/officers of a business may also wish to obtain optional personal coverage through WCB.

    Intellectual Property

    The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) defines intellectual property (IP) as creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Or to be more general: knowledge that has a value to your competitors. It is important to protect this knowledge, as it is the differentiator which can make you stand out from competitor or an asset which you can sell.

    • Copyright

      • Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work. The creator is usually the copyright owner.

    • Trademarks

      • Trademarks can be one or many words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others. Over time, trademarks can come to stand for not only the actual goods or services a person or company makes, but also the reputation of the producer. Trademarks are very valuable intellectual property.

    • Trade Names

      • A trade name is used when:
        • an individual does business under a name other than their own personal name; or
        • a corporation does business under a name other than its legal name.
      • Registering a business name does not grant any right of ownership of the name. It is simply proof that the name is being used by a particular business.

    Extra-Provincial Registration

    • Extra-provincial registration is a process of incorporation in Canada that both Canadian corporations and foreign corporations have to go through when they seek to do business in Canada or in various provinces or territories throughout Canada.

    • Canadian Corporations

      • When people choose to go through incorporation in Canada, they may choose to set up their new corporation as a federal or provincial corporation.

        If they choose to set up a federal corporation, they will need to register their business in the province(s) and/or territory(ies) where they carry on business. Corporations Canada advises:

        "Currently, any client completing their federal incorporation process through our Online Filing Centre has the option of filling out extra-provincial registration forms for Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The other provinces and territories have individual requirements for registering corporations from outside their borders. Incorporators should contact the local corporate law administration office (also known as Provincial Registrars) in each province or territory in which they plan to carry on business.”

        If people set up a provincial corporation in any Canadian province or territory, and then want to do business in any other province or territory, they will have to fill out the extra-provincial registration forms for the province(s) and/or territory(ies) where they want to do business.

        This can be a very easy and inexpensive process. Please contact us for more information.


    • When you are planning to set up a business in a larger municipality, the first step is to make an enquiry and/or application to the development control office. Whether you are planning a business operating from your home, or from some existing commercial or industrial facility, it is your obligation to ensure the facility is suitably zoned for your operations. Where it is obvious that the facility is appropriately zoned, you are able to proceed without a development control approval. For example, this case would apply if you were setting up a business in an existing office building, or taking over a retail space. In the case of purchasing an existing business, municipal licenses may be transferred subject to license inspection approval. However, you are advised to check the current zoning status of the facility.

      In Edmonton, home occupation development permits are divided into Minor and Major categories. The minor category, at an application cost of $30, permits employment only of a resident of the dwelling, no more than one business visit per day and business activity only within the dwelling. The major category, at an application cost of $80, permits employment of up to two non-resident people on site at any time, any number of business visits that will not create pedestrian or vehicle or parking problems, and use of the garage for business purposes. For commercial or industrial enterprises, there could be fees for activities such as building permits and development applications.

      Information about business licenses, development permits and other aspects of starting a business can be found on the City of Edmonton website.

      The City of Calgary also has a permit and license system for home based businesses as well as commercial or industrial enterprises. Fees vary.

    Other Start-Up Items to Consider

    • Shareholder Agreement
    • Insurance: Commercial Liability/Directors and Officers
    • Business Bank Accounts
    • Financing
    • Supplier Agreements
    • Customer Contracts/Invoices
    • Employee/Independent Contractor Agreements
    • Employment Policies/Code of Conduct
    • Data/Privacy Management
    • Trade tickets
    • Association Memberships

Ross W. Swanson



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