How to Register a Business in BC, How to Start a Business in BC

Are you considering starting a business in British Columbia? Well, you are in the right place! The province usually provides many business opportunities, including a pro-business regulatory environment and tax incentives. We’re here to guide you through starting a business in this beautiful province.

This guide covers everything from choosing a business name, registering the business, and obtaining the necessary permits and licenses. We will break down the procedure into easy-to-follow instructions. Let’s get started!

How to Start a Business in BC

When starting a business, you need to identify your business model and choose the business’s legal structure.

Remember that every business structure has different tax implications, pros, and cons, so choosing the right one is crucial. You can contact us for guidance on which business structure will suit you.

Legal Business Structures to Choose from

Here are the legal business structures you can conveniently start in British Columbia.

1. Sole Proprietorship

Like most other provinces in Canada, a sole proprietorship is the most common and accessible business structure in BC, as it’s easy to set up and operate. Besides, it’s the most suitable legal business structure for small businesses.

The sole proprietor has total control over the business and receives all the profits. However, they are individually accountable for all possible losses and debts incurred by the company.

2. General Partnership

A partnership is only suitable for businesses with more than one owner. Partners agree to cooperate to achieve their joint interests. Besides, the partnership agreement specifies each partner’s roles, rights, and responsibilities. This helps distribute risks and allows for sharing of profits and losses.

In a limited partnership, at least one person (the general partner) is subjected to unlimited liability, while the other partners (limited partners) have limited liability. Limited partners aren’t actively involved in the management of the business and can’t lose more than the amount they invested.

3. Corporation

This business structure is ideal for large businesses with many stakeholders. Corporations are created as legal entities that are distinct and separate from their shareholders.

Incorporating your business will mean that a shareholder’s liability is often limited to their investment in the business. Nonetheless, there are a few exceptions. For instance, a shareholder who guarantees a corporate loan may be held accountable for that debt.

How to Register a Business in BC

When registering a business in BC, you must first register the business name. This is the legal name that will identify your business.

1. How to Register a Business Name in BC

I). Get a Business Name

Before registering your business in BC, you will need to choose a business name. Your customers will recognize and associate your business with this name. There are some rules when choosing the name, which include:

  • You can’t use trademarks or well-known names
  • The name can’t be too similar or the same as another registered business name
  • The name can’t be offensive
  • The name can’t be misleading

ii). Register the Business Name

You can register your business name in several ways, the fastest and easiest being online. You can do this by sending a name request through the BC online registry, where you need to pay a $31.50 fee with your credit card.

Alternatively, you can fill out the Name Request application form and then send it via mail to the Service BC office. In this case, you pay a $30 fee. Besides, you can take advantage of a priority service that lets you register your business name in 1-2 working days for a $100 fee.

After registering your business name, it is reserved for 56 days. You must register your business within this timeframe, or else you will pay an extra fee.

We recommend submitting at least three different business names in order of your preference, as the first name on the list might already be taken or inappropriate. In such a case, BC Registry will approve one of the other names you submitted.

2. Registering a Business in BC

After deciding on the business legal structure and registering a business name, you can file the business registration application through BC Registries and Online Services or, if you’re incorporating your business, register through BC Corporate Online. Also, you can register your business offline in the BC Registry Services.

Another way to register your business is with Ownr, an all-in-one platform designed to help business owners and entrepreneurs conveniently launch and manage their businesses. You can create a customized Canadian business entity in less than ten minutes, from sole proprietorships to corporations. Besides, you can access the resources you need, such as Business Number registration, Business licences, permits, contracts, and tax advice from experts.

I). Registering a Sole Proprietorship

To register your sole proprietorship offline, complete a Statement of Registration Sole Proprietorship form. The form is available online or at any BC Registry Services.

When registering, you need to have your business name approval number. Fill out your name, address, postal code, city, and province. Ensure you provide accurate information, as you might be subjected to a maximum fine of $5,000 for not doing so.

In this section, provide your business information, including:

  • Business address -the physical address where you intend to conduct the business in BC
  • Mailing address– applicable if you have a different one from your business address
  • Any additional business contact information
  • The nature of your business– refers to what your business does
  • The start date of the business– can be past, present, or future

In the last section, you need to state either your corporate name or individual name in full (last name, first name, middle initial). Then, fill out the proprietorship address, which should be residential.

After filling out all the forms for a Statement of Registration Sole Proprietorship, ensure you submit it to the BC Registry Services. After that, a $40 fee is due to the Minister of Finance. Here is where you may mail in your application and the payment by cheque:

BC Registry Services

PO Box 9431 Stn Prov Govt

Victoria, BC V8W 9V3

ii). Registering a General Partnership

The process of registering general partnerships in British Columbia is quite similar to that of registering sole proprietorships. You only need to fill in the Statement of Registration General Partnership form and submit it to the BC. Registry Services.

You are needed to provide your name approval number, your name, address, postal code, city, and province. All correspondence and paperwork are sent to this address.

In section B, you are required to fill out the following:

  • The business name of your partnership
  • Business address- the physical address where you intend to conduct the business in BC
  • Mailing address– applicable if it’s different from your business address
  • Any additional contact information for your business
  • The nature of business– refers to what your business does
  • The start date of your partnership

In Section C, you should fill out the information about all your partners. If you have more than three partners, you are required to attach an additional statement with their data, including their names in full(last name, first name, middle initial). Moreover, if the partners are individuals, you need to provide their residential addresses.

After filling out all the forms for a Statement of Registration General Partnership, ensure you submit it to the BC Registry Services. After that, a $40 fee is due to the Minister of Finance. Here is where you may mail your general partnership registration application and the payment in a cheque.

BC Registry Services

PO Box 9431 Stn Prov Govt

Victoria, BC V8W 9V3

iii). Registering a Corporation

Before you fill out an Incorporation Application, you should request business name approval and reservation, establish your corporate’s articles and prepare an incorporation agreement. After completing all these steps, you can file an Incorporation Application. You can conveniently do it on the Corporate Online website.

The Steps for Registering a Corporation:

1. Fill out the company’s name by providing the business name reservation number.

2. Choose the effective date of incorporation. If it’s in the future, you must pay $100. We recommend ensuring that the incorporation effective date is less than ten days in the future.

3. Fill in the incorporator’s name. The incorporator can be an individual or organization that files the incorporation application on behalf of a company. Also, the incorporator can be a director, officer, or company shareholder.

4. You are required to provide your corporation’s mailing address. The address will receive all the documents associated with your company.

5. If the corporation has more than one incorporator, you need to add them by providing their information and the addresses of each.

6. In this step, you need to provide the completing party’s credentials and the mailing address. The completing party refers to the person who fills out the forms.

7. If your company has a translation of its name that can be used outside of Canada, you should note it. Otherwise, click the “next” button.

Provide Corporate Director Credentials

You should provide the company’s director(s) credentials. The corporation director is the person who will oversee the business’s day-to-day operations. The person will ensure that the business is successful and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations of BC.

Steps to Providing Corporate Director Credentials

1. Provide your company’s registered office mailing address. Ensure you fill in a valid mailing address since this is where your company will receive important legal documents.

2. Fill in information about the number of shares and the various share classes. The corporation’s board of directors will determine the number of shares of each class.

3. You are required to indicate the value of your shares and any restrictions or special rights they may have. Each class can have different privileges. For instance, Class A shareholders can have voting rights, whereas Class B shareholders don’t.

4. Choose how the Certificate of Incorporation will be sent to you. You can choose it to be sent to your physical address or through email by the Corporate Registry.

5. Confirm all the credentials you filled out, then pay the $351.50 registration fee using a credit card.

6. Lastly, after paying the required fee, wait for the confirmation of your application. The registration process might take up to 14 business days.

How to Get a Business License (BL) in British Columbia

You will have to get your business license from where your business is located. Each municipality usually runs differently, so check the website for more information, such as the application procedure and cost.

Additionally, keep in mind that business licenses have to be renewed annually. If you intend to start a food or alcohol business, you will need to have a health operating permit and a food licence from the province.

1. City of Duncan

Mobile Businesses

For mobile businesses, the business licence of the City of Duncan authorizes operations in North Cowichan, Lake Cowichan, and Ladysmith. Those who operate mobile businesses south of the island or further up the island can buy an Inter-Community Business Licence for an extra fee; payment can now be made online. This business licence authorizes a mobile business to run in Vancouver Island communities.

How to Apply for a Licence

You can conveniently apply for a business licence in the City of Duncan:


Inter-municipal: $100/year for new business and non-profit $1/year

Inter-community: additional $170/year for a new business.

How to Pay

  • Online
  • By cheque – 200 Craig Street, Duncan, BC V9L 1W3
  • In-person – 200 Craig Street, Duncan, BC

Timeline for Approval

Your business licence takes up to 2 weeks to process after the city receives your payment for the licence fees. The application is sent to several government departments (Public Health Inspector, Building, Planning, etc.) for review during this time.

2. City of Victoria

The City of Victoria allows business owners to apply for new business licenses online without visiting City Hall. You can;

  • Apply for a business licence and submit relevant documents
  • Pay for licence invoices
  • Print issued licences


Business license applications in the City of Victoria require a variety of supporting documents, some of which depend on the sort of business you want to start, including:

Timeline for Approval

Before a Business License can be issued, it is reviewed by several City of Victoria departments. This takes up to 10 working days. Getting a short-term rental business license could take about 14 working days.

Operating a business in Victoria without a valid licence may attract a fine of $250 per day.

These are examples of procedures and requirements for getting a business licence in the British Columbia province. Check out these other municipalities in BC.

How to Register for GST/HST And PST in BC


The Goods & Services Tax (GST) is a federal tax of 5% usually levied on most goods and services in Canada. For a gross income of more than $30,000 a year, you are required to register for GST and HST. Even if you don’t generate more than $30,000, there can be advantages to registering for and collecting GST/HST, especially the input tax credits.

On the other hand, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) was enacted in the provinces that decided not to combine their provincial sales tax with the GST. British Columbia adopted it in 2010 and phased it out in 2013, becoming a system of GST plus PST (Provincial Sales Tax).


The PST usually applies to the purchase of legal services, software, accommodation, services to goods (such as computer repair, furniture assembly, and vehicle services), and telecommunication services, including Internet services and digital and electronic media content like music and movies.

You’ll get your business number once you register for GST/PST.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on How to Register a Business in BC and Start a Business in BC

1. What’s the cost of registering a business in BC?

The total registration cost includes $30 for a name reservation and a legal structure registration fee. You can register a sole proprietorship or general partnership for $40. Meanwhile, the basic fee for incorporating a business in British Columbia is $350.

2. Where do I register my small business in BC?

As a small business owner, you need to register your business with the BC Registry Services. For a sole proprietorship or partnership, it takes up to two days. Within 56 days of receiving your Name Request Number, you can register your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership at OneStop.

Once registered, you will get a Business Number which can be used as an identifier for remitting taxes to the government, EI premiums, Canada pension premiums, and making WorkSafeBC payments.

3. Must I register my small business in British Columbia?

If you intend to register a small business in BC as an individual, you don’t need to. You can always conduct business under your name. However, registering your small business as a sole proprietorship or partnership comes with numerous perks. For instance, a business name is handy for marketing purposes. Also, you need to have a business name to be able to accept and make payments with the bank.

4. What defines a small business in BC?

For a business structure to be considered a small business in BC, it should have fewer than 50 employees. Small businesses continue to be extremely important to British Columbia’s growing economy.

5. What happens if I don’t have a business license in British Columbia?

You are not allowed to do business without a business license in BC. For instance, operating a business without a license in the City of Vancouver could result in a fine as high as $1,000.

6. How can I get a GST Number in British Columbia?

Generally, you must obtain your business number before registering for a GST/HST account. You can apply for and register for a business number (BN) through the Business Registration Online program. This is the most convenient way to get a BN. After obtaining your BN, you can register for a GST/HST account.

Featured Image by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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