Starting a Business in British Columbia
A SET-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR ENTREPRENEURS
British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, is defined by its Pacific coastline and mountain ranges.
The coastline of British Columbia is more than 17,000 miles long. The capital city of BC is Victoria, located on Vancouver Island. BC was named by Queen Victoria, in reference to the Columbia District of the region and the word British was chosen to differentiate it from the Columbia District in the U.S.
- Small business makes up 98 percent of all business in the province and employs over one million people.
- Small business provides nearly 56 percent of all private-sector jobs in British Columbia, the highest rate in the country.
- There are approximately 385,100 small businesses operating in the province
HAVE YOUR BUSINESS FINANCING SECURED?
STEPS TO STARTING YOUR BRITISH COLUMBIA BUSINESS
STEP 1: MAKE SURE RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS IS RIGHT FOR YOU
The Small Business BC website provides direction on how to evaluate and test your idea for a new small business.
- To get started, see their “how to” guide on evaluating your business concept.
- The Business Plan Checklist makes sure you’ve completed your research and thought through your idea.
Focus on your skills, experience and passion. Go with what you already know or don’t mind learning fast. Evaluate business-lifestyle fit and test your idea.
STEP 2: UNDERSTAND BUSINESS STRUCTURES
You will need to decide what type of business structure you want. A sole proprietorship, registering a partnership, incorporating your business, or amalgamating corporations each have pros and cons. Find out which is best for you.
There are other business structures, such as societies, franchises and cooperatives to consider:
British Columbia is home to a diverse range of not-for-profit organizations – also known as societies. Learn more
The Province wants to make sure that franchisees have access to the information they need to help make well informed decisions before purchasing a franchise. That’s why we have created a suite of materials to help inform your decision. Learn more
STEP 3: DEVELOP A BUSINESS PLAN
You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Many entrepreneurs write a business plan only when they need to secure start-up financing. However, your plan is far more than a document for banks and investors to read; it’s an invaluable roadmap for launching and growing your business. Your business plan is vital for success and financing. It’s your roadmap: your goals, strategies, target market, financial forecast, and much more.
STEP 4: SECURE YOUR FINANCING
Every business will need working capital in order to pay for start up expenses and in order to operate until the business is profitable. Many people keep their jobs while they are starting their own business. That way, there’s a guaranteed income to help them while they’re starting out.
For information about government ﬁnancing, go to:
STEP 5: CHOOSE A BUSINESS NAME AND HAVE IT APPROVED
It’s a good idea to have a first, second and third choice for your business name, just in case the name you want is not available. You can do some preliminary research for potential conflicts by looking through telephone listings, business directories or similar publications. You can also search for existing names on the BC Registry Services to see if the name you’ve selected has already been registered.
Choosing a business name is important, you want to make it easier for your customers to remember it, here are some tips:
- Avoid hard-to-spell names.
- Don’t pick a name that could be limiting as your business grows.
- Conduct a thorough Internet search.
- Search and register a domain name
- Use a name that conveys some meaning.
- Conduct a trademark search.
For database business name search in Canada and other resources go to :
You can download the Name Approval Request form. The form also includes guidelines for choosing a name.
The form is also available and can be processed at most OneStop locations. To ﬁnd the OneStop location nearest you, call 1 877 822-6727.
STEP 6: REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS
Register your business to prepare for various aspects of operations, such as web domain, taxes, employees, and trade.
Before you can start operating under a business the proper paperwork needs to be filed, unless you are operating under your exact legal name. The name you choose needs to be unique from all other businesses.
If your business is a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you can register it quickly and easily with the Province of British Columbia online using the OneStop Business Registration Service.
You will need to register your business. You may also need to obtain a Business Number, GST/HST Account, or other tax related accounts with the Canada Revenue Agency. Click here for more information
STEP 7: SECURE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
In today’s world, it is almost essential for a business to have an online presence, whether through company listings, social media or a company website.
Creating a website for your business is no longer the expensive and time-consuming activity it used to be; plenty of templates exist in which you can simply input your business information and publish. In addition to a website, you should also consider other avenues for promoting your business online:
STEP 8: REGISTER FOR PROVINCIAL SALES TAX (PST)
PST is a retail sales tax that applies when a taxable good or service is purchased, acquired or brought into British Columbia, unless a specific exemption applies. This means that if you sell or lease taxable goods or services, or provide accommodation, in British Columbia, you may be required to register with the Ministry of Finance to charge and collect PST. To find out more about PST and how to register, go to the Ministry website.
Register for Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT). If you provide accommodation in certain areas of the province, you may also be required to charge MRDT on the purchase price of accommodation. The MRDT is currently collected in over 50 municipalities throughout the province and is used to fund tour ism marketing for the local area. To find out more about the MRDT, see the PST on Accommodation Bulletin (PST 120) (PDF).
STEP 9: REGISTER FOR GOODS AND SERVICES TAX (GST)
If you sell or provide goods and services in Canada and your annual world-wide GST taxable sales, including those of any associates, are more than $30,000, you may be required to register for goods and services tax (GST).
To register online with the Canada Revenue Agency, go to the OneStop Business Registry.
Step 10: Complete Other Registrations
You may also need to complete other provincial, federal or local government registrations. The registrations that follow can be completed through the OneStop Business Registry.
- If you plan to hire employees – or have established your new business as a corporation – you will need to register with WorkSafeBC and pay WorkSafeBCinsurance premiums.
This will ensure you and your workers are covered in case of work-related injury or disease. If you are self-employed, you may also want to apply for WorkSafeBC’s Personal Optional Protection.
- If you are hiring employees and you are paying salary, wages, bonuses, vacation pay or tips to your employees – or providing a beneﬁt to your employees such as boarding or lodging – you will need to register with the Canada Revenue Agency(CRA) for a payroll deductions account. This account will enable you to make the required Income Tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) payments. For more about payroll deduction accounts, call 1.800.959.5525 or go to the CRA’s website.
- If your business is incorporated, or you are a non-resident corporation operating in Canada, you will need to register for a Corporate Income Tax account with the Canada Revenue Agency.
- If you are going to import or export goods, you will need to register with the Canada Border Services Agency(CBSA). You can register your business with the CBSA through the OneStop Business Registry. For more information about importing and exporting, go to the CBSA’s website.
- If you have a restaurant and will be serving food, as the primary focus of your business, as opposed to liquor, you can apply for a restaurant liquor licence through the OneStop Business Registry.
For more information about a restaurant liquor licence, go to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch’s website.
- If you need to change your business address through the OneStop Business Address Change Service, or plan to access other government e-services regularly, you will need a business BCeID. You can apply for a business BCeID through the OneStop Business Registry. A BCeID is an online service that makes it possible for you to use one login ID.
Check out our Import/Export Guide.
This guide introduces you to the places and people who can help you decide whether import/export is right for you, and how you can best set up your business to enter the exciting world of international trade.
In addition, your business may require a local government business licence to operate. Please check with your local government or First Nation to ﬁnd out about licence and zoning requirements in your area. If you do need to register for a business licence, you may be able to do so through the OneStop Business Registry.
Visit OneStop Business Registry for a list of participating local governments and First Nations. You can also access BizPaL, a convenient web-based service that allows business clients to easily generate a customized list of the permits and licences needed from all levels of government by answering some simple questions about their business. For more information about BizPaL, please refer to Step 12 of this guide.
The Canada Revenue Agency also provides a summary of information for small businesses, explaining federal requirements for GST, payroll deductions, importing/exporting and corporate income tax.
Go to: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/tg/rc4070/README.html or call 1 800 959-5525.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Small Business BC offers a Starting Your Business Checklist that takes you through the step-by-step process of starting a business as well as ensuring you know exactly which registrations you need to complete.
You can ﬁnd copies of all B.C. laws at: www.bclaws.ca. You can purchase official print versions of B.C. Statutes and Regulations by calling 250 387-6409 or e-mailing BC.Laws@gov.bc.ca.
The new Tribunal Small Claims Regulation under the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act – the tribunal has jurisdiction to resolve a claim that is less than or equal to an amount prescribed by regulation as the maximum tribunal small claim amount.
Step 11: Investigate Additional Business Registrations and Requirements
You may need to consider additional registrations or requirements before you open your small business.
Tel: 250 612-4100 Prince George (or outside B.C.)
Toll Free in B.C. 1 800 663-3316
The Employment Standards Act and Employment Standards Regulation apply to most workplaces in British Columbia and cover important issues such as required wage rates, vacations and overtime rules. If you are planning to hire employees, you should be familiar with this information.
Tel: 1 866 660-6011
The Industry Training Authority (ITA) ) is a provincial Crown agency that leads and coordinates British Columbia’s skilled trades system. ITA works with employers, employees, industry, labour, training providers and government to issue credentials, manage apprenticeships, set program standards, and increase opportunities in the trades. If you are planning to hire apprentices to work in your new business, you will need to be registered with the ITA.
Tel: English 1 800 959-5525
Tel: French 1 800 959-7775
If your business is either a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you must report your share of gross and net proﬁts (or losses) on your individual tax return (T1). If your business is an incorporated company, you must ﬁle a corporation tax return (T2) within six months after the end of the corporation’s ﬁscal period.
Tel: 1 866 997-1936
Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all ways by which businesses protect their intellectual property, including inventions, designs, symbols and products. . Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Canadian Intellectual Property Office offers a series of guides that explain how to register your business patents, copyrights and trademarks.
Tel: 604.244.6181 (Lower Mainland)
Toll Free: 1.888.922.2768 (Canada)
Employers, regardless of size, must ensure the health and safety of their workers. WorkSafeBC has resources for small business owners that can quickly help you understand what’s required to meet your legal obligations, including registering your business and applying for coverage, managing claims, and meeting your responsibilities for health and safety.
Generally, you need coverage if you:
• Employ and pay workers on a regular, casual, or contract basis
• Come from another province or country to do work in B.C.
• Work in the commercial ﬁshing or trucking industries
STEP 12: CHECK OUT OTHER USEFUL RESOURCES
In addition to Small Business BC and the OneStop Business Registry, there are a number of other places where small business owners can look for new business opportunities, practical advice and helpful services.
Tel: 250 352-3878