How to Get Started with a Business Registration in BC

Registering your business in BC opens a whole world of possibilities. If you’re starting a business, then choosing your name and officially registering with the province is a fundamental step toward success.

With a registered business, you can open a business bank account and access government programs, including funding. Having a registered business also builds trust, especially with other business owners.

Here’s a quick get-started guide, and if you want to reach a Small Business BC Advisor, you can connect with our team by calling 604-775-5525 or emailing [email protected].

How Do You Register a Business in BC?

Registering a business in BC is a two-step process: a name approval request followed by a business registration or incorporation.

You will need to decide on the structure of your business before you submit your name request and begin the business registration process.

What Are the Different Business Structures in BC?

There are three main for-profit business structures:

  • Sole proprietorship – a business with only one owner.
  • General partnership – a business with more than one owner who all share equal responsibilities.
  • Corporation – a company that’s independent of its shareholders and has the same powers as a person.

Each structure comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The structure you choose will have important implications for liability, taxation, and succession in your business.

Read more: How to Choose the Right Business Structure for Your Small Business.

Can I Change a Business Structure Later?

You may be able to change your business structure later, although it’s not ideal. It’s much better to carefully consider your options before you start the business registration process.

For example, one cannot “switch” from a proprietorship to a corporation because they are different legal structures. You can dissolve your proprietorship and register a new corporation, however. Changing from partnership to proprietorship requires a new name request and business registration.

If you change your mind about your business structure after you’ve gotten a name request approved, you will need to contact BC Registry to have your approved name changed before you can proceed.

How Do I Pick My Business Name?

Your business name should be both distinctive and descriptive. For a distinctive element, you want to choose unique words that will set you apart. These could include an individual name, a geographical location, a made-up word, or an acronym. Then, you’ll want a descriptive element that helps describe the nature of your business, so try using words like consulting, construction, design, etc, to characterize your business.

You will then submit your name to the province for approval. It’s a good idea to check if your chosen name is available first and then decide on a few alternate names to include with your application and list them in order of preference. When the BC Registry approves a name request, they will look at your first choice and approve it if there are no conflicts. To learn more and see all the business naming rules, visit BC’s request approval for a business name website.

Can I Register My Business I’m Already Operating?

On the sole proprietorship/general partnership application, you can specify the start date of the business and backdate it to when the business officially started. You cannot backdate an incorporation application.

Do I Have to Register for GST and PST?

In BC, most small businesses must collect and remit two types of taxes: the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Provincial Sales Tax (PST). Registering for these taxes is a separate process from registering your business.

The GST is a federal tax of 5% on the sale of most goods and services in Canada. As a small business owner, you must register for the GST and collect it from your customers if your annual taxable supplies exceed $30,000. You must then remit the GST you collected to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

PST is a provincial tax of 7% on the sale of most goods and services in British Columbia. Like the GST, you must register for the PST and collect it from your customers if your annual taxable supplies exceed $10,000. You must then remit the PST you collected to the British Columbia Ministry of Finance.

Some goods and services are exempt from GST and PST, so make sure you check with the CRA and the British Columbia Ministry of Finance to see if your products or services fall under these exemptions.

Read More: Basics of GST for Small Businesses

If I Register in BC, am I Registered in Canada?

If you do a provincial registration, it will only be registered in BC. If you wish to register federally, you will need to do so through Corporations Canada, and this is only available for corporations – not sole proprietorships or general partnerships.

What Documents and Information do you Need to Register your Business?

To start a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you only need the contact information of the owner (or owners) and a business address to file the application online.

For corporations, you will need more information. To register a corporation, you must provide the names and addresses of directors and shareholders, registered and records office information, share structure information, incorporation agreement, and a minute book. Small Business BC generally recommends contacting a lawyer to help set up a corporation,, especially if there will be more than one or two directors/shareholders in the company.

How Can Small Business BC Help Register a Business?

Small Business BC is here to help. We have three services that are particularly helpful for registering your business:

  • Guided Name Request & Registration Package: For sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Includes
    guided name reservation, company registration, and printed registration certificate.
  • Incorporation Kit for British Columbia by Simply Legal: Includes easy-to-follow instructions, a USB flash drive with
    all required legal forms to incorporate properly, and a minute book with customized tabs.
  • Start Smart Seminar Package: The Start Smart package provides a step-by-step guide to starting your business
    right. This package includes two seminars where industry experts provide their knowledge and tips to help you start
    your business smart.

Small Business BC is Here to Help

SBBC is a non-profit resource centre for BC-based small businesses. Whatever your idea of success is, we’re here to provide holistic support and resources at every step of the journey. Check out our range of business webinars, on-demand E-Learning Education, our Talk to an Expert Advisories, or browse our business articles.