Starting a business in Alberta: Info-Guide
This Info-Guide will help you navigate through the government programs and services available to individuals starting a business in Alberta. Although many of your questions will be answered in this document, this list is, by no means, exhaustive. Further information on any of these programs or services can be obtained by calling the numbers listed under the program descriptions, by using the document numbers provided, or by calling The Business Link Business Service Centre.
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Ready to make your business a reality? Here’s where you start! Get the essentials in this three-part series. You will learn the basics of developing a business plan, what market research you need for the plan, as well as financing options to fund your start-up. Learn more about this series in our video.
Your business plan is your statement in words and numbers of what you want to do and what you need to get there. It is a detailed summary of your mission, products/services, market(s), operations and finances. It is your basic reference document in telling your suppliers, bankers, and partners, about your track record, your tactics, and your targets.
Why Do I Need One?
The business plan is like a road map for your business. It is a planning and tracking tool. You need it in order to make your start-up decisions and your day-to-day operating decisions, to get the financing you need, and to keep yourself and your business on track. Without it, you will waste time, energy and money. You may also lose sight of your objective.
2. Business Name Registration
Alberta businesses are usually registered as either a sole proprietorship, partnership or limited company. A sole proprietorship is not required to be registered if the business is carried on under the owner's own name. If the business uses a name other than the owner's or any other words are added to the owners name (e.g. Jane Smith Shoes), the Partnership Act requires that you register the Trade Name before you start using it.
Please note: The registration of the Trade Name does not in itself ensure the exclusive use of that name for the individual registering it. Alberta Registries has no obligation to avoid name duplication or to advise anyone registering a name that it has been previously registered.
3. Incorporating a Business in Alberta
Why Incorporate Your Business?
The process of incorporation establishes your business as a distinct, legal entity. As such, incorporation may offer a number of advantages to your business. Some examples being: the Raising of Capital by selling shares, Limited Liability and Possible Tax Advantages.
Your business can be incorporated Provincially or Federally. If the business will be operated primarily in one Province then Provincial incorporation may be desirable. For further information about Alberta Incorporation see the document Incorporating an Alberta Corporation
If the business will be operated in a number of provinces Federal Incorporation may be desirable. If you incorporate Federally, to do business in Alberta you must also register with Provincial Corporate Registry.
Trade Name, Partnership and Provincial Incorporation
Alberta Registries redesigned the way Corporate Registry does business. To obtain general information and see FAQ's on the Corporate Registry system visit the Corporate Registry Home Page
Corporate Registry Fees are on the Internet (Corporate Registry fees are Uncapped Products, the service fee is market-dependent)
Tradename, partnership and incorporation forms are available at the Corporate Registry Internet site.
Corporate Registry (Service Alberta)
Telephone Contact: Edmonton 780-427-2311. In other areas of Alberta, call 310-0000 to be connected toll-free.
In Alberta, the process for searching corporate names is carried out by private search houses. A Search House listing may be accessed at http://www.nuans.com/houses-maisons/sh_form-forme_mr_en.cgi or search houses may be found under the heading "Searchers of Records" in the telephone directory.
Federal Business Incorporation - Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA)
You should consider federal incorporation if you want to carry on business in more than one province or outside the country. The enhanced name protection provided to a federal corporation, the increased recognition abroad of a "federal charter", the ease of securing a ".ca" domain name, and the high level of service provided by the Corporations Directorate staff are reasons frequently cited by corporations and their professional representatives for choosing federal incorporation under the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA). This is seen as an important element of the right to carry on business throughout Canada. Once federally incorporated, the corporate name has a protected status second only to trade-mark protection. CBCA corporations, like companies set up under any of the other incorporating jurisdictions, may be required by a province or territory to register to conduct activities in that jurisdiction, but the enshrined right to carry on business across Canada, which is unique to CBCA corporations, ensures that the corporation will be able to operate across the country under its approved federal corporate name.
Federal incorporation filing services are available on-line. For more information see the document Online Federal Incorporation.
For general information on federal incorporation see the document Federal Business Incorporation - Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA). Federal incorporation kits are available by contacting The Business Link Business Service Centre Toll Free 1-800-272-9675.
Forms, policies and guidelines are also available from Corporations Directorate offices of Industry Canada or any Canada Business service centre.
4. Provincial Sales Tax
Alberta does not have a Provincial Retail Sales Tax.
5. Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Under the Goods and Services Tax (GST), most goods and services sold or provided in Canada are taxable at a rate of five percent (5%).
Certain items, such as basic groceries and prescription drugs, are also taxable, but at a rate of 0%. These are referred to as zero-rated goods and services. A limited number of goods and services are exempt from the GST.
Most persons and organizations engaged in commercial activities in Canada who have worldwide taxable sales of more than $30,000 in any previous four consecutive calendar quarters or in any one calendar quarter, must register for and collect GST. All taxi operators must register for GST, regardless of their revenues. Once you have registered, you will be assigned a Business Number (see next section).
For most businesses, if your revenue from the sales of taxable goods and services over four consecutive quarters is not expected to exceed $30,000, you are not required to register. If you do not register, you do not charge GST to your customers but neither will you be able to receive a refund for the GST paid on your business expenses.
A quick method of accounting for the GST is available for small businesses with annual worldwide GST-included sales of $200,000 or less including sales of associated businesses. You have to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to use this method. If you do use this method, you have to continue using it for at least a year. For more information on the quick method, see the CRA guide RC4058, Quick Method of Accounting for GST/HST
For more details and/or a registration kit contact the Canada Revenue Agency Business Window listed under # 6. below.
6. Business Number - BN
The Business Number (BN) is an identifier that assigns each business a single number that remains the same no matter how many accounts it has. The BN includes the major accounts most businesses have: corporate income tax, GST, import/export, and payroll deductions. All new businesses registering for any one of these accounts receive a BN. Canadian amateur athletic organizations, charities, and national arts service organizations registered with the CRA also use the BN.
Businesses can call 1-800-959-5525 to register a new business. We automatically route the call to the appropriate CRA business window.
Canada Revenue Agency
220 - 4th Avenue South East
Canada Revenue Agency
9700 Jasper Avenue, Suite 10
Canada Revenue Agency
Room 200, 419 - 7th Street South
Canada Revenue Agency
4996 - 49th Avenue
Red Deer, Alberta
Canada Revenue Agency Internet address:http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca
7. Do I need a license to start my own business?
Each municipal government has the authority to issue its own business licenses within its jurisdiction. Since there is no uniformity throughout the province regarding municipal licenses for businesses, you should consult with the appropriate local officials to determine if your business will be affected by local regulations, local taxation, licenses or zoning requirements. In some instances, persons may be required to obtain licenses in municipalities in which they are not located but do carry on business activity. Depending on the type of business you start other regulations may apply. Examples are health and fire regulations, transportation regulations, environmental legislation, labour laws and providing for the health and safety of workers.
Operating a business from home
Operating a business from home requires meeting the zoning by-laws controlling property uses in your municipality. In many jurisdictions zoning approval is required and then a business license is obtained.
Where can I find more about these regulations and licenses?
For further information regarding municipal regulations and licenses, contact the clerk of the city, town, village or rural municipality where you plan to do business. These numbers can be found in your Phone Book.
8. Provincial Business Licensing
Some businesses require licensing and / or bonding under the Fair Trading Act. To find out if your business is regulated, Contact: Service Alberta, Consumer Services Division Edmonton 780-422-1335, Calgary 403-297-5743. In other areas of Alberta, call 310-0000 to be connected toll-free.
Some businesses require special licensing. Some of these are Liquor Licences (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission), Health Approval and/or Food Permits ( Regional Health Authorities ), Importing/Exporting (Canada Customs), federal Food Labelling requirements for pre-packaged foods (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), packaging and labelling of non-food products (Industry Canada ).
Workers' Compensation Act
In Alberta the majority of employers are required by law to have workers' compensation insurance for all of their workers and must notify the WCB-Alberta within 15 days of hiring their first worker. (A worker includes full-time, part-time, temporary and casual staff, as well as family members, providing a service for your business.)
If an employer is operating in an exempt industry under Schedule A of the Workers’ Compensation General Regulations, coverage is optional. These employers may apply for voluntary coverage for their workers.
For further information see the document Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) - Alberta
Competition Act - Pyramid Selling and Multi-Level Marketing Schemes - Industry Canada
The Competition Act is a federal law governing business conduct in Canada. The multi-level marketing and pyramid selling provisions of the Competition Act set out the responsibilities for operators and participants in these types of plans. The Act also explains the difference between multi-level marketing and a pyramid selling scheme.
Multi-level marketing is a plan for the distribution of products whereby participants earn money for the supply of a product to other participants in the same plan. They, in turn, make their money for the supply of the same products to other participants.
Pyramid selling is a multi-level marketing plan that incorporates various deceptive marketing practices, which make it a criminal offence under the Competition Act.
For further information, please call 1-800-348-5358, visit: Competition Act - Pyramid Selling and Multi-Level Marketing Schemes
9. Bonding and Business Insurance
Bonding and other types of business insurance can protect your enterprise from unpredictable damage and problems. All businesses require some degree of insurance protection. You should think seriously about the type and amount of insurance that your business requires and deal with a knowledgeable insurance company or broker.
The various insurance policies available to organizations include:
- Accounts receivable
- Comprehensive or commercial general liability (CGL)
- Commercial automobile
- Errors and omissions
- Directors and officers
For information on business insurance visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada website.
10. Employer Deductions
As an employer, you have the responsibility of making a number of deductions on behalf of your employees.
Under federal law, it is required that all employers collect Employment Insurance Premiums, Canada Pension Plan Contributions and Personal Income Tax on behalf of the federal government.
Remittances for Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan are shared by the employer and employee. Canada Revenue Agency - Taxation provides workshops to assist in Source Deductions and guidebooks which give easy-to-follow instructions on the amounts to be deducted.
For further information about federal deductions see Payroll Deductions or call the CRA Business Enquiries Line at 1-800-959-5525.
Alberta Health and Wellness administers the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) a comprehensive government plan of health insurance for Alberta residents. All residents of Alberta must register themselves and their dependants with the AHCIP. To obtain more information contact: 780-427-1432 (Edmonton). Toll-free in Alberta, dial 310-0000 then 780-427-1432..
11. Employment Standards
Alberta's Employment Standards Code describes the minimum rights and obligations of employers and employees in a number of areas. These areas include rights and obligations related to payment of wages, hours of work and overtime pay, vacations and vacation pay, general holidays and general holiday pay, termination of employment and parental benefits. For more information on Employment Standards contact the Employment Standards Branch nearest you, located in your local telephone directory.
12. Information on Buying a Franchise
A franchise is a contractual privilege granted by an individual or company, that is the franchisor, to another individual or company, the franchisee. This privilege is the right to sell, in a specified manner and within a specified territory, the goods or services developed by the franchisor. In a well developed franchise, the risks of failure are lessened considerably, avoiding problems due to inexperience, undercapitalization and no proven track record.
For further information on Buying a Franchise contact the Canadian Franchise Association Toll Free at 1-800-665-4232 Fax: 905-625-9076.
You can order a tip sheet called "Buying a Franchise in Alberta " by calling Service Alberta: 1-877-427-4088 to be connected toll-free.
13. Additional information and pamphlets on start-up procedures and regulations
The Business Link Business Service Centre is a first stop access point to information on government programs, services and regulations. The Business Link is a not-for-profit organization supported by the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta. It is a member of the Canada Business network. The Business Link provide clients with timely, accurate and comprehensive business related information. This information is available in many ways. Some of these are: publications, a business library, and video conferenced seminars and workshops.
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The Government of Alberta fosters sustainable economic growth throughout the province by actively engaging with industry and communities across Alberta. For the number to the office that covers your region visit the Alberta Advantage website
Federal Sources of Information
BDC Consulting - Business Development Bank of Canada
BDC has a national network of management consultants specifically suited to meet the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Their professional business advisors can help you assess, plan, and implement results-driven, cost-effective management solutions, whatever your company's development stage. BDC offers a full range of services from strategic and succession planning to production management and ISO certification.
If you are interested in pursuing your project with BDC, their affordable services are at your disposal. For further information on BDC Consulting, call 1 877 BDC BANX (232-2269)
Other Sources of Information
When seeking information on starting a small business you should also check with your local library, the major chartered banks and your local Chamber of Commerce.
- Guest Advisor Program
Looking for "expert" advice? Contact one of our Guest Advisors. You can speak to financial representatives, lawyers, accountants, business management consultants, and business coaches.
- Business Link Research Services
- Learning @ The Link
- Self-Employment: Is it for me?
- BizPaL - Business Permits & Licences
- Alberta Chambers of Commerce
- Rural Alberta Business Centres
- Alberta Community Futures Development Corporations
- Points to Consider When Starting Your Own Business
- Legal Issues in Starting a Business
- Feasibility Checklist for Starting a Small Business
- Contractor Or Employee? Guidelines for Alberta
Information contained in this document is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute advice for any specific fact situation. Users concerned about the reliability of the information should consult directly with the source, or seek legal counsel.
Some of the hypertext links lead to non-federal government sites which are not subject to the Official Languages Act and the material is available in one language only