Setting up a Business

Overview of types of businesses

There are several ways to set up a business in British Columbia, Canada. Choose the business structure that gives you the most flexibility:

A company may be incorporated under federal or provincial legislation and either publicly traded or privately held. It operates as a separate legal entity and has rights and liabilities, including the right to own property.

A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business. It is unincorporated, operated by a single individual and taxed at the owner’s personal tax rate.

A general partnership is typically a business arrangement between two partners who share the profits and losses from the business. They also share unlimited liability for the obligations of the partnership.

A limited partnership has both general partners responsible for the business with full liability and limited partners, whose liabilities for the obligations of the company are limited to the amount of their investment. British Columbia has a simple process to register a business.

A joint venture is an agreement (usually written) between at least two entities. It may be a general partnership, a limited partnership, co-ownership of property, or an incorporated company.

A business that already exists outside British Columbia may register to do business within the province.


Overview of how to set up a business

British Columbia has a simple process to register a business.

The British Columbia Business Corporations Act requires that the principals first reserve the name of the new company with the British Columbia Registrar of Companies.

Then, an electronic notice of articles and an incorporation application must be submitted to the registrar of companies.

For more information on reserving a name and filing an incorporation application see the Registrar’s website.

A federally incorporated company based in British Columbia has different registration requirements, including residency requirements for directors and the need to register in both British Columbia and each province where it will operate. However, it is able to use its name in both British Columbia and all provinces of Canada. Registration is handled by Corporations Canada.


Overview of required permits/licences

Businesses in British Columbia typically require a licence to operate. Business licences are usually issued by the municipal government to regulate where particular businesses operate and what kinds of services they can offer.

Business licenses may require an inspection of the building’s structure and systems, including electricity and plumbing. Regular health and safety inspections, including inspection of fire protection systems, may be required.

Professionals such as doctors, massage therapists and some tradespeople may need to show proof of membership or good standing with their professional or trade association. Some businesses, particularly those in the resource sector, manufacturing or construction, may require environmental permits.