Chapter 8

Registering a business and other admin tasks

After all the excitement of deciding to start a business, you’ll have some paperwork to do.

Person puts up a sign for their business called Sticks and Thrones.

How to register a business with the government

You have a few official steps to walk through before you’re in business:

  • Choose a business name: There are two national databases where you can check if your business name is available as well as provincial and territorial ones. Find out more about choosing a business name.
  • Register as a sole proprietor or partnership: If you’re a sole proprietor using your personal name you won’t need to register. If you want to use a business name other than your personal name, you’ll need to register it as a trade name with the provinces or territories where you plan to do business (except in Newfoundland and Labrador). Learn more about your registration requirements if you’re a sole proprietorship or partnership.
  • Register as a corporation: If you’ve decided to set up as a corporation, the process of incorporating includes business name registration in the province or territory where you’re incorporating. If you incorporate federally, you’ll have exclusive use of your corporate name across Canada and if you incorporate provincially or territorially, you’ll just have exclusive use of your corporate name there. Learn more about your registration requirements if you’re a corporation (federal or provincial/territorial).
  • Get business numbers and tax accounts: You may have to pay income tax, and federal and provincial sales tax, so the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provincial tax offices will need to know about your business. In some provinces and territories, you will automatically receive a business number and relevant tax accounts when you register or incorporate your business. In others, you’ll have to apply separately.
  • Apply for licences and permits: You may need additional permits or licences for your business. You can find out what federal, provincial/territorial and municipal government permits and licences you may need through BizPaL.

Should I trademark a business name?

You can legally protect a business name and logo to prevent others from mimicking your identity. This can be a valuable step for businesses that plan to invest a lot in making their brand widely known. Find out more about trademarks and how to register one.

This area of the law can get complicated – especially if you expand into overseas markets and find there’s a business there with a similar name. Ask for advice from a legal professional with experience in this area.

Where to get help

If you’re unsure of your obligations to the government, there are people who can help. Look for industry associations for your type of business, a Chamber of Commerce or other local business advocacy groups, find businesses like yours and ask the owners what regulations they have to comply with, or simply speak to a local accountant.


Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

How to start a business

Thousands of new businesses open every day. If all those people can do it, why not you? Here’s what to do, and when.

  1. What starting a business looks like

    A Xero survey of 1,000 North American startups reveals why and how they started their businesses.

  2. How to do market research

    Your business idea is clearly inspired. But it helps to check you’re not the only one who thinks so.

  3. How to write a business plan

    Writing a business plan will help nail down your idea and give you a blueprint for executing it.

  4. Budgeting and forecasting

    It’s time to run some numbers on your business idea. Budgeting and forecasting help with that.

  5. Pricing strategies and cost of goods sold

    Your prices can influence the number of sales you make and the profit you earn on each transaction.

  6. Types of business structure

    Your business structure can affect how much tax you pay, and how you're treated by the law.

  7. Small business accounting

    If you’re starting a business, then you’ll need to get familiar with some accounting basics.

  8. Registering a business and other admin tasks

    After all the excitement of deciding to start a business, you’ll have some paperwork to do.

  9. How to create a business website

    Treat your website like an online version of a storefront. It’s the first impression for many customers and prospects.

  10. Tools and guides for your business

    Now that you’re in business, you want to stay there. Xero’s got resources and solutions to help.

Download the guide to starting a business

Learn how to start a business, from ideation to launch. Fill out the form to receive this guide as a PDF.

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