How to Set Up a Corporation in Canada : 8-step guide

Establishing a corporation in Canada is a prudent business decision due to the advantages it brings, such as limited liability and potential tax benefits. This is a smart move whether you are a small business owner looking to give your business a more formal structure or an entrepreneur aiming to grow your operations. 

SAL Accounting’s experts are available to help you with better corporate and business decisions which will lead your business to the new height of success. 

To help you with this process, let’s explore the eight key steps to help you learn how to set up a corporation in Canada.

Choosing Your Business Name to Set Up a Corporation in Canada

Picking the right name for your business is super important when you’re setting up a corporation in Canada. It affects how people see your company and can make a big difference in how successful it becomes. Here’s why it’s crucial

  • Your Brand: Your business name is the first thing people notice about your company. It’s what sets the tone for your brand. So, make sure it’s a name that tells people what your business is about.
  • Legal Stuff: You’ve got to follow the rules. Your business name needs to be unique, and it can’t step on the toes of other businesses with similar names. If you don’t follow these rules, you could end up in trouble.
  • Checking Availability: In Canada, the government has a handy online database. You can use it to see if your chosen business name is free for you to use when you set up a corporation. It’s an essential step to avoid legal problems later.
  • Being Unique: Your business name should be like no other. This helps your business stand out, and it avoids confusing your customers with other businesses that have similar names.
  • Online Presence: Nowadays, having a name that works online is crucial. After you’ve made sure your name is available with the government, check if the website domain is also up for grabs. Having a consistent name online is a big plus.
  • Know Your Audience: Think about who you want as your customers. Make sure your business name connects with them and is easy to remember. It should match what your business is all about.
  • Thinking Ahead: Think long-term. Your name should work for your business now and later on when you expand. Be flexible with your name.
  • Keep It Simple: A name that’s easy to say and spell is better. People are more likely to remember and talk about your business if the name is simple.

So, when you’re all set to set up a corporation in Canada, take your time choosing a great business name. Make sure it’s unique, follows the rules, and fits your business well. It’ll set the stage for your business’s success.

Choosing Where to Set Up A Corporation in Canada

First, you need to decide where you want to set up a corporation in Canada. This means picking the province or territory where your company’s main office will be. Here’s why it’s important

  • Different Rules and Taxes: Different places in Canada have their own rules and taxes for businesses. So, before you decide, make sure to do some research. This helps you understand the specific regulations and tax implications that might apply to your business.
  • Access to Markets and Resources: Think about where your customers are and where you can find the people and things you need for your business. Being in the right place can make things easier and open up new opportunities.
  • Local Laws and Rules: Each location can have its laws and rules for businesses. Knowing and following these rules is crucial to avoid any legal problems.

Choosing Directors and Shareholders for Your Canadian Corporation

Now, when you set up a corporation in Canada, you’ll need to choose people to fill important roles in your company

  • Directors: These are the people who will manage and make big decisions for your corporation. They’re like the bosses, in a way.
  • Shareholders: These are the owners of your corporation. They have a say in the company’s major choices, and they’re like the investors who own part of the business.
  • Combining Roles: If you’re running the show by yourself, you can be both the director and shareholder. But if you have others working with you or investing in your business, you can pick them to take on these roles. Just remember, each role comes with its responsibilities and rights, which you can spell out in your corporation’s rules and agreements.

In short, when you’re setting up a corporation in Canada, think carefully about where you want to base your business. This decision can affect your taxes, the rules you follow, and how you reach your customers. And don’t forget to choose people to be the directors and shareholders in your company, even if it’s just you. These roles are important for running your corporation smoothly.

Decide on Ownership and Shares

One of the first big choices you’ll make when setting up your corporation in Canada is deciding how your business will be owned. This means thinking about how many shares your corporation will have, creating different types of shares, choosing who will own them, and figuring out the ownership percentages. Let’s explore these ownership decisions.

  • Number of Shares: You need to figure out how many shares your corporation will have. These shares represent ownership in your company. You can have a set number or leave it open.
  • Different Types of Shares: You can create various classes of shares. This lets you customize how ownership and profits are divided. For example, you can have regular shares and special shares, each with their own rules.
  • Who Will Own Shares: Decide who will own these shares. Shareholders are the people or groups that hold these shares. You can be the only shareholder (if it’s just you), or there can be more shareholders if you have partners or investors.
  • How Much Each Shareholder Owns: The number of shares each person holds determines how much of the company they own. This affects decisions and how profits are shared.

To sum it up, your decisions about ownership and shares are key to shaping how your corporation operates in Canada. Whether you’re the sole owner or working with partners and investors, understanding shares and ownership is essential for effective business management and sharing profits.

Prepare Your Corporation’s Rules

To set up a corporation in Canada, you need to create some important documents called Articles of Incorporation. These documents spell out what your corporation is all about, its rules, and how it’s structured. Whether you’re doing it yourself or getting help, these articles are crucial for your corporation.

  • What’s in the Documents: These documents, called Articles of Incorporation, have important information. They include your corporation’s name, what it’s all about, the different kinds of shares, and the rules your company will follow.
  • Get Help If Needed: Depending on how complex your business is, you can do this yourself or get a lawyer or a legal service to help you. A lawyer can make sure everything is legally sound.

In summary, preparing Articles of Incorporation is a significant step when setting up a corporation in Canada. These documents define how your business will work, making sure it follows the law and runs smoothly. Whether you seek professional help or handle it yourself depends on how complex your business is.

Get a Business Number

As you begin the process of setting up a corporation in Canada, obtaining a Business Number (BN) is a vital task. This unique number serves several purposes, including handling taxes, opening a business bank account, registering for tax programs like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), and participating in government initiatives. 

Let’s understand why this BN is essential.

  • For Taxes and More: This Business Number (BN) is like your business’s ID. You use it for taxes, business income reporting, and other important financial tasks.
  • Bank Account and More: You also need the BN to open a business bank account. Plus, it’s essential for registering for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and taking part in government programs.

In closing, getting a Business Number is crucial when setting up a corporation in Canada. It’s the key to meeting tax responsibilities, managing your finances, and participating in government programs. As you navigate establishing and running your business, having a BN ensures you meet Canadian regulatory requirements.

Register for Provincial or Territorial Taxes

When you set up a corporation in Canada, it’s important to be aware of your tax obligations. Depending on where your business is located, you may need to register for Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Let’s explore why this is crucial.

  • Different Tax Systems: Canada has various tax systems depending on your location. Some places have the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which combines federal and provincial sales taxes. Others have Provincial Sales Tax (PST) in addition to the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • Compliance Matters: To ensure you’re doing everything correctly for your corporation, check with your province’s tax agency to learn about the specific rules and how to register for these taxes.

In conclusion, as you set up your corporation in Canada, remember to find out what tax responsibilities your location has. Registering for the right taxes is crucial to avoid fines and stay on the right side of the law. Keep your financial house to make sure your business runs smoothly.

Comply with Reporting and Record-Keeping

Once your corporation is up and running, you’ll need to keep good financial records and file your annual corporate tax returns. Staying on top of this is very important. Let’s explore why.

  • Financial Records: After you’ve successfully set up your corporation, you must keep detailed financial records. This means recording your income, expenses, assets, and debts.
  • Tax Obligations: This information is essential for making good financial decisions and, importantly, for doing your taxes correctly. You also need to file your annual corporate tax returns, which means reporting your business’s financial activities to the government.
  • Professional Help: Many businesses choose to hire an accountant to help manage their finances, which can be a smart move to keep things in order.

In conclusion, when you’ve set up your corporation in Canada, remember that maintaining financial records and meeting reporting obligations is vital. It ensures you’re transparent with your finances, follow tax rules, and avoid legal trouble. Hiring an accountant can make this process easier and more accurate.

Take Away

In conclusion, setting up a corporation in Canada offers several advantages, including limited liability, credibility, and potential tax benefits. The process involves crucial steps, like selecting a unique business name, appointing directors and shareholders, and preparing articles of incorporation. 

Adhering to your province’s regulations and tax requirements is vital. Seeking guidance from professionals can ensure correct establishment.

Once your corporation is running, remember that compliance and record-keeping are ongoing. This includes annual corporate tax returns and accurate financial records. With the right approach and expert support, your Canadian corporation can thrive in the Great White North.


What is the main advantage of incorporating a business in Canada?

The main advantage of setting up a corporation in Canada is the limited liability it offers. This means that your assets are protected from business-related debts and liabilities. It also provides a more formal and credible structure for your business, making it easier to raise capital and establish a lasting presence.

How much does it cost to incorporate a business in Canada?

The cost of incorporating a business in Canada varies by province or territory. Typically, the fees for filing articles of incorporation can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. You may also incur additional costs for legal or accounting services.

Can a non-resident or foreign national set up a corporation in Canada?

Yes, non-residents and foreign nationals can set up a corporation in Canada. However, they may need to have a Canadian resident director and a registered office address. It’s advisable to seek legal advice to navigate the specific requirements and regulations, as they can be complex.