Should I Incorporate My Business?

Things to Consider Before You Incorporate

Anna Dunaeva DLegal Anna Dunaeva February 11, 2024
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Building a business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, one of the most important decisions that a business owner has to make is what kind of business structure to choose, as it can potentially have a significant impact on the growth of the business. A popular choice for many businesses in Canada is incorporation.


But while it may sound like a step up for many fledgling small businesses, incorporation may not be the best choice, and there are many factors to consider before incorporating your business in Canada.

Should I Incorporate My Business In Canada?

The decision to incorporate a business in Canada is a pivotal moment for entrepreneurs, requiring a nuanced understanding of various legal, financial, and operational considerations. 

Legal Considerations

Incorporating a business establishes it as a distinct legal entity, separate from its owners. The most significant legal advantage is limited liability, protecting personal assets from business debts. Understanding the extent of this protection is crucial, particularly in industries where legal risks are prevalent. Entrepreneurs should evaluate the legal landscape of their business environment to determine the level of liability protection required.


Financial Implications

Beyond legal protections, entrepreneurs need to assess the financial implications of incorporation. This includes understanding corporate tax structures, potential tax advantages, and the impact on personal income. Evaluating the financial health of the business and its future growth projections is paramount in deciding whether the tax benefits of incorporation align with the overall financial strategy.


Impact On Personal Taxes

Considering the impact on personal income taxes is crucial in the decision-making process. When a business is incorporated, the profits it generates are subject to corporate income tax. However, the distribution of these profits to shareholders means they have to pay taxes on an individual level. The integration of corporate and personal income taxes is a key consideration, and strategic tax planning becomes crucial for optimizing the overall tax strategy.


Operational Impact

The decision to incorporate also has operational implications. Perpetual existence, a characteristic of incorporated entities, ensures business continuity even with changes in ownership. Entrepreneurs should consider their long-term vision for the business and whether this stability aligns with their growth plans. Additionally, the potential ease of access to capital and enhanced credibility associated with incorporation can significantly impact day-to-day operations.


Risk Tolerance and Long-Term Vision

Understanding one’s risk tolerance and long-term vision is crucial. Entrepreneurs should evaluate the industry’s volatility, market conditions, and potential shifts in the business landscape. Businesses often favour incorporation with aggressive growth plans, but the level of administrative complexity may not suit every entrepreneur. Aligning the decision with the business’s unique characteristics and the owner’s risk appetite is critical.


Provincial and Federal Incorporation

In Canada, businesses can be incorporated at both the provincial and federal levels. Each option comes with its own set of regulations and considerations. Provincial incorporation falls under the jurisdiction of individual provinces, allowing businesses to operate within that specific province. Should a provincial corporation wish to be recognized outside of the province, additional rules will apply. Federal incorporation, on the other hand, enables businesses to be recognized across multiple provinces. However, a federal corporation will require registration in the respective province. Entrepreneurs should carefully assess their business’s scope and consider whether provincial or federal incorporation best aligns with their operational needs and expansion plans.


What Does It Mean to Incorporate a Business

Incorporating a business in Canada is a multifaceted legal process that imparts a distinct identity to the entity. This process involves several key components, each carrying significant implications for the business and its stakeholders.


Legal Transformation

At the core of incorporation is the establishment of a separate legal entity. This legal transformation brings forth limited liability, a crucial concept that shields the personal assets of business owners from the financial obligations of the company. Limited liability serves as a protective barrier, preventing personal assets from being used to satisfy business debts. This separation between personal and business liabilities is a foundational aspect of incorporation and plays a pivotal role in mitigating risks for entrepreneurs.


Articles of Incorporation

The incorporation process begins with the creation of articles of incorporation. These articles are a formal document filed with the relevant governmental authority, typically at the provincial or federal level. The articles of incorporation serve as the constitution of the business, outlining essential details such as the company’s name, its purpose, the classes of shares it can issue, and the rights and restrictions associated with those shares. Entrepreneurs must carefully craft this document, as it establishes the legal framework within which the business will operate.


Issuance of Shares

Incorporation involves the issuance of shares, each representing ownership in the company. The different classes of shares, such as common and preferred shares, define ownership structures and confer specific rights to shareholders, as laid out in the Articles and a shareholders agreement. Understanding the intricacies of share issuance is crucial for determining the capital structure of the business and how ownership interests are distributed among its founders and potential investors.

Board of Directors

A key governance element introduced through incorporation is the establishment of a board of directors. The board is responsible for overseeing the company’s management and making strategic decisions. The directors, appointed by shareholders, play a vital role in shaping the overall direction of the business. This governance structure introduces a level of formality and structure, enhancing decision-making processes and ensuring accountability.

Regulatory Compliance and Reporting Obligations

With the benefits of incorporation come increased regulatory obligations. Businesses must adhere to reporting requirements, conduct regular meetings, and maint ain accurate corporate records. These obligations are in place to ensure transparency, accountability, and compliance with legal standards. Entrepreneurs need to navigate these regulatory requirements to avoid penalties and maintain good standing with governmental authorities.

Types of Corporations In Canada

Understanding the various types of corporations in Canada is essential for entrepreneurs considering incorporation. Each type comes with its own set of characteristics, legal implications, and tax considerations. Here are the main types of corporations in Canada:

Canadian Controlled Private Corporation (CCPC)

A CCPC is a private corporation that meets specific criteria set by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Controlled by Canadian residents, a CCPC enjoys tax advantages, including lower corporate tax rates on active business income, eligibility for the small business deduction, and potential access to the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption.

Non-Resident Corporation

A non-resident corporation is one that is incorporated outside of Canada but may carry on business within the country. Such corporations are subject to specific tax rules, and their taxation depends on factors like the extent of their Canadian operations.

Professional Corporation

Certain professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants, may choose to incorporate as a professional corporation. This type of corporation is subject to specific regulations that vary by province, allowing professionals to enjoy certain tax benefits while maintaining certain liability protection.

Public Corporation

Public corporations issue shares to the public through stock exchanges. They are subject to extensive regulations, including regular reporting requirements and stringent corporate governance standards. Public corporations are often larger entities with widespread ownership.

Private Corporation

A private corporation is not listed on a stock exchange, and its shares are not publicly traded. Private corporations are commonly chosen by small to medium-sized businesses. They benefit from more flexibility in decision-making and have fewer regulatory requirements compared to public corporations.

Crown Corporation

Crown corporations are owned by the government. They can operate at the federal or provincial level and are established to provide specific public services or meet government objectives. Crown corporations may have a distinct legal and regulatory framework.

Advantages of Incorporating a Business

Incorporating a business in Canada yields several strategic advantages, fundamentally reshaping its legal and operational landscape.

Limited Liability Protection

Incorporation establishes a critical shield against personal liability. Business owners are legally distinct from the corporation, safeguarding personal assets from business debts and legal actions. Limited liability provides a robust layer of financial protection, mitigating the personal risk borne by entrepreneurs.

Perpetual Existence

An incorporated business enjoys a perpetual existence, transcending changes in ownership. This means the corporation can persist indefinitely, unaffected by shifts in its ownership structure. Such continuity is invaluable for stability, long-term planning, and maintaining operational consistency.

Enhanced Credibility

The legal recognition of incorporation often enhances a business’s credibility. Stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and investors, perceive incorporated entities as more stable and trustworthy. This heightened credibility can be a strategic asset, fostering relationships and opening avenues for collaboration.

Access to Capital

Incorporation provides expanded access to capital through diverse financing options. The ability to issue various classes of shares enables businesses to raise funds by selling equity or issuing preferred shares. This financial flexibility is particularly advantageous for businesses with ambitious growth plans or those operating in capital-intensive industries.

Tax Planning Opportunities

The corporate structure presents distinct tax planning opportunities in Canada. Corporations are subject to a separate corporate tax rate, offering potential tax savings. Furthermore, implementing income-splitting strategies, such as distributing dividends to family members, can enhance tax efficiency and lower taxable income. These strategies provide a strategic advantage for effectively managing the financial affairs of the business.

Disadvantages of Incorporating a Business

While incorporating offers distinct advantages, it is crucial to weigh them against potential drawbacks and challenges.

Administrative Complexity

Incorporation amplifies regulatory obligations, leading to heightened administrative complexity. Businesses must navigate reporting requirements, conduct regular meetings, and maintain meticulous records. The administrative burden can be daunting, demanding a significant investment of time and resources.

Time and Resource Commitment

Beyond the initial setup, incorporated businesses face ongoing administrative obligations. Filing annual reports, organizing regular meetings, and managing corporate records requires a continuous commitment of time and resources. This administrative burden can divert attention from core business activities, impacting operational efficiency.

Potential Double Taxation

Business incorporation may lead to double taxation, where corporate profits are taxed at both the corporate and individual levels. Initially subject to corporate income tax, profits are taxed again at the personal level when distributed as dividends to shareholders. While strategies like the Small Business Deduction can help mitigate this by reducing the corporate tax rate, careful tax planning is essential for entrepreneurs to optimize their overall tax strategy.

Financial Investment

Incorporating incurs various costs, including government filing fees, legal fees for drafting articles of incorporation, and ongoing expenses related to compliance. While viewed as an investment, entrepreneurs must assess their financial capacity to absorb these upfront and ongoing costs.

Potential Loss of Privacy

Incorporated businesses face public disclosure requirements, exposing certain information to the public record. Details such as director names, shareholdings, and registered office addresses become publicly accessible. This loss of privacy may be a concern for entrepreneurs valuing confidentiality, especially in industries sensitive to public exposure.

Sole Proprietorship vs Incorporation

Understanding the differences between business structures, such as Sole Proprietorship and Incorporation, is crucial for entrepreneurs as it directly impacts various aspects of their business journey. These differences influence matters such as legal liabilities, tax obligations, ownership structures, and long-term continuity.

Making an informed decision about the most suitable business structure ensures alignment with the entrepreneur’s goals, risk tolerance, and growth plans, ultimately contributing to the overall success and sustainability of the business.


In a Sole Proprietorship, the business owner assumes unlimited personal liability, meaning personal assets are not legally separate from business assets, exposing the owner to full business debts and liabilities. In contrast, Incorporation provides limited liability protection for shareholders, safeguarding personal assets from business-related financial obligations.


Sole Proprietorships are taxed at the personal income tax rates of the owner, with business income and expenses reported on the owner’s personal tax return. On the other hand, Corporations, under Incorporation, face a separate corporate income tax rate. Shareholders are then taxed on dividends received, potentially resulting in a form of double taxation.

Ownership and Control

A Sole Proprietorship affords the owner complete control over the business and its operations, with decision-making being straightforward and not involving multiple stakeholders. In contrast, Incorporation introduces a more structured governance framework, where ownership is represented by shares, and control is distributed among shareholders, directors, and officers.


The continuity of a sole proprietorship is closely tied to the owner making changes in ownership, such as the sale of the business or the owner’s death, which are potential triggers for the cessation of the business. Conversely, incorporated businesses enjoy perpetual existence, with changes in ownership having no impact on the ongoing operations of the corporation.

At What Income Level Is It Worth Incorporating a Business?

The threshold at which it becomes financially advantageous to incorporate a business varies based on several factors. Generally, entrepreneurs may start considering incorporation when their annual net income is at least $100,000. Below this range, the costs and administrative complexities associated with incorporation might outweigh the potential tax benefits.

As income surpasses this initial threshold, the benefits of the Small Business Deduction and income splitting become more pronounced, making incorporation increasingly attractive. However, conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis is crucial, considering factors such as legal fees, ongoing administrative obligations, and the specific tax implications for the business owner.

While this income range provides a broad guideline, individual circumstances, business goals, and regional tax regulations play a significant role. Entrepreneurs are strongly advised to consult with financial professionals to determine the optimal time for incorporation based on their unique situation and objectives.

How Do I Incorporate My Business?

Incorporating a business is a structured process that involves several key steps. While the specifics may vary slightly depending on the jurisdiction, some general guidelines apply to most incorporations.

Name Reservation

When establishing a named company instead of a numbered one, choose a unique and suitable name for your business, ensuring it complies with the naming regulations of the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions allow online name searches and reservations.

Articles of Incorporation

Prepare and file the Articles of Incorporation with the appropriate government authority. This document typically includes essential details such as the business name, registered office address, share structure, and the names of initial directors.

Share Structure

Determine the share structure of the corporation in the Articles of Incorporation, including the number of shares and their classes, as well as attributable entitlements. This is a crucial aspect that influences ownership distribution and voting rights.

Registered Office

Designate a registered office address for official correspondence. This address is where legal documents and official communications will be sent, and it must be a physical location within the jurisdiction.

Directors and Officers

Appoint initial directors and officers for the corporation. Provide their names, addresses, and other required information. Directors make high-level decisions, while officers handle day-to-day operations.

Corporate Bylaws

Draft and adopt corporate bylaws. These internal rules outline how the company will be governed, covering matters such as shareholder meetings, director responsibilities, and the issuance of shares.

Initial Organizational Meeting

Hold an initial organizational meeting for the shareholders and the board of directors. During this meeting, shareholders can handle necessary organizational matters while directors can adopt bylaws, appoint officers, and address any other issues.

Issuing Shares

Issue shares to initial shareholders in accordance with the share structure outlined in the Articles of Incorporation. This may involve issuing share certificates.

Obtain Necessary Licences and Permits

Ensure compliance with all relevant regulations by obtaining any necessary business licences and permits required for the industry and jurisdiction.

Register For Taxes

Register for applicable taxes, including federal and provincial taxes. This step may involve obtaining a business number and registering for goods and services tax (GST).

Corporate Records

Establish a system for maintaining corporate records. This includes keeping minutes of meetings, resolutions, and other essential documents, which may be required for audits or legal compliance.

If you want help to incorporate your business, or if you are unsure if incorporating is the right decision, reach out to DLegal today. Our experienced incorporation lawyers know all the finer details of Canadian and Alberta business laws and regulations and can help you make the incorporation process swift and easy. They can also advise you on whether incorporation is the best next step for your growing business.

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