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Are you a small business owner wondering if it’s time to incorporate your business? Consider your business’s current circumstances:

 

  • Is your business demonstrating financial stability with consistent revenue and profitability over $100,000 per year?
  • Do you want to maintain a clear separation between personal and business assets?
  • Does your business have significant growth potential and expansion plans?
  • Do you have a realistic and appealing long-term vision for the company and exit strategies like selling or going public?

 

If so, understanding the concept of business incorporation is an important step to take. It involves forming a new legal entity separate from its owners, offering limited liability protection and potential tax advantages.

This article will guide you through the incorporation process, outlining a step-by-step process to make informed decisions about your business structure and legal responsibilities.

What Does it Mean to Incorporate A Business?

A business incorporation is the legal process of forming a new corporation, a separate legal entity from its owners or shareholders. It provides limited liability protection, meaning shareholders are typically not personally liable for the company’s debts.

A corporation can exist indefinitely, regardless of changes in ownership, and it can raise capital by issuing shares of stock. Additionally, it has its own tax rates, and profits and losses are usually not passed through to individual shareholders, potentially offering tax advantages.

What Does Limited Liability Mean?

Limited liability means that the personal assets of the company’s owners or shareholders are protected from the company’s debts and legal obligations. If a corporation faces financial difficulties or is sued, the liability of shareholders is typically restricted to the extent of their investment in the company.

For example, personal assets, such as homes or savings, cannot be seized to settle the company’s debts or legal claims, except in cases where personal guarantees have been provided. Limited liability offers an important safeguard for individuals involved in a corporation, reducing their financial risk in the event of business challenges or legal issues. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Incorporation?

Pros:

    1. Limited Liability: Business owners enjoy limited personal liability, protecting their personal assets in case of business debts or legal issues.
    2. Asset Separation: Incorporation ensures a clear separation between personal and business assets, enhancing asset protection.
    3. Access to Capital: Incorporated businesses have an advantage in raising capital from investors and obtaining loans at lower interest rates.
    4. Tax Benefits: Corporations benefit from potentially lower corporate tax rates, offering tax advantages compared to sole proprietorships.
    5. Credibility: Incorporating lends instant credibility to the business, attracting investors, lenders, and customers who value long-term commitment.

Cons:

    1. Complexity: Incorporation involves more administrative and accounting complexity than sole proprietorships, necessitating meticulous record-keeping.
    2. Costs: There are additional costs associated with maintaining a corporation, including registration fees and financial statement filings.
    3. Ownership Structure: Corporations may have shared decision-making structures and formalities, reducing flexibility for owners.
    4. Double Taxation: Profits distributed to shareholders are taxed twice, first at the corporate level and then at the personal level.
    5. Legal Responsibilities: While limited liability is a pro, directors can be held personally responsible for certain tax obligations, adding a layer of legal responsibility. 

What is a Federal Incorporation?

A Federal incorporation refers to registering and establishing a corporation under the federal laws of Canada, as opposed to incorporating it at the provincial or territorial level.

When a business chooses federal incorporation, it obtains the legal status of a federal corporation, granting it the ability to conduct business across all provinces and territories in Canada.

This option provides businesses with enhanced name protection, a broader geographical reach, and increased global recognition for their brand. 

What is a Provincial incorporation?

A provincial incorporation involves registering a business under the laws of a specific province or territory in Canada, granting it legal status within that jurisdiction.

Unlike federal incorporation, it limits the business’s operations to the province or territory where it is registered.

Incorporating provincially may offer lower costs and competitive tax rates, making it suitable for local businesses with no immediate plans for national expansion.

Choosing between federal and provincial incorporation depends on the business’s geographic scope and goals. 

Steps to Incorporating A Small Business in Canada:

This step-by-step guide provides a roadmap for small business owners to help visualize the incorporation process in Canada. It focuses on the essentials, such as name selection, document preparation, and compliance issues:

    1. Decision-Making: Evaluate whether incorporation aligns with your business goals and growth strategy.
    2. Choose Business Structure: Decide between federal or provincial incorporation based on expansion plans and local presence.
    3. Select a Unique Name: Pick a distinctive and compliant name for your corporation.
    4. Prepare Articles of Incorporation: Draft essential documents, including business name, share structure, and director details.
    5. Submit Documents and Fees: File the articles of incorporation and pay the required fees through the appropriate government agency.
    6. Appoint Directors: Identify qualified individuals to serve as directors, adhering to legal requirements.
    7. Business Number: Receive a nine-digit business number from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) upon approval.
    8. Tax Compliance: Register for a GST/HST account if your revenue surpasses the threshold and meets tax obligations.
    9. Record-Keeping: Maintain meticulous financial records, including income, expenses, and transfers.
    10. Consult Professionals: Seek guidance from accountants or lawyers to ensure legal and tax compliance.

 

Conclusion

Incorporating your small business is a significant decision that can offer protection, tax benefits, and growth opportunities.

Consider the factors mentioned and follow the steps outlined in this article to be better prepared to make the right choice for your business.

Whether you choose federal or provincial incorporation, remember that seeking professional advice is crucial to ensure legal and financial compliance.

 

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