How To Register Your Business Name
If you’re an entrepreneur in Ontario, naming your business is one of the most exciting parts of getting it up and running.
Like christening a new ship, finalizing a name for your business can set the tone for your brand for years to come.
But before you break out the champagne, don’t forget that you need to register your business name!
In our province, business names are registered with the Central Production and Verification Services Branch (CPVSB) of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS) and are placed on the Public Record maintained by CPVSB for public disclosure.
FYI: Anyone may search business name information contained on the Public Record for a fee to find the owners or principals behind a business name.
Registering your business name is also how you obtain your Master Business License (MBL), which is commonly used as proof of registration to set up bank accounts for your business!
We know you’re eager to get started with your business, but if you’re not sure where to get started when it comes to registering your business name, read on and find out!
Who needs to register for a business name?
The Ontario Business Names Act administered by the Central Production and Verification Services Branch applies to:
- sole proprietorships (one owner) carrying on business under a name other than the individual’s full name;
- partnerships carrying on business under a firm name other than the full names of the partners;
- corporations carrying on business under a name other than their corporate name;
- an existing general partnership or limited partnership registering a business name different from the registered firm name;
- limited liability partnerships;
- extra-provincial limited liability partnerships; and
- extra-provincial limited liability companies
Where can I register a business name?
Ontario.ca provides access to the government’s electronic services that simplify and streamline registration, renewal and reporting processes for Ontario businesses.
New entrepreneurs and existing corporations can electronically complete the most important applications to register their business at one location, including applications for Business Name Registration, Retail Sales Tax Vendor Permit, Employer Health Tax and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
When registering via Business Registration Online (a partnership between Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and some provincial governments including Ontario), you may apply for the above programs as well as for a Federal Business Number (BN) and other CRA programs.
Business names can be searched and registered through ServiceOntario via the following channels:
- Business name registration
- Business Registration Online (BRO)
- By mail: ServiceOntario, P.O. Box 1028 Station B, Toronto ON M5T 3H3
You can also register through certain service providers not listed above, or by visiting the CPVSB in person.
How much does it cost to register?
The Ministry fee for registering a business name:
- Through ServiceOntario, electronically $60; by mail $80.
- Through the Service Providers $60; however the Service Providers charge a separate service fee. Contact the Service Providers directly for information about the fees they charge for the immediate online service they provide.
- In person at the Branch (service time is immediate) or by mail (service time is 6 – 8 weeks) is $80.
What forms will I need to complete?
Depending on the structure of your business, you will have different forms to fill out.
- Form 1 – Registration of a Sole Proprietorship/General Partnership
- Form 2 – Registration of a Business Name for a Corporation
- Form 5 –Registration of a Business Name for a Partnership/Limited Partnership (Must be filed in person or by mail to the Central Production and Verification Services Branch)
- Form 6 – Ontario Limited Liability Partnership, Extra-Provincial Limited Liability Partnership, Extra-Provincial Limited Liability Company (Must be filed in person or by mail to the Central Production and Verification Services Branch)
The forms are available online through ServiceOntario.
How do I check if another business is already using the name I want to register?
Before making a final decision on your business name and ordering business cards or stationery you will want to know if someone else is already using the name. A search of the Companies and Personal Property Security Branch records will determine whether another Ontario business is using the name you have selected and where that business is located.
For detailed information about searching a business name and product descriptions, and for information on corporate name searches as well as NUANS and trademark searches, please refer to the “Searching the Public Record” information sheet available online through ServiceOntario.
How often do I have to register my business name?
A business name registration is effective for five years.
To continue using the name it must be renewed before the expiry date set out on the registration, and a renewal fee must be paid.
It is the registrant’s responsibility to keep the information on the registration up to date and to renew the registration on time. The branch does not issue reminders.
An updated Master Business Licence (MBL) will be issued immediately if renewed in person or mailed within two weeks after a successful online renewal.
What if I need to cancel or change my registration?
To ensure the Public Record is accurate, you must notify the Central Production and Verification Services Branch when the information in your registration has changed.
Changes in address, business activity or partners (as long as one of the original partners remains the same), must be filed on the Ministry form within 15 days after the change. There is no filing fee.
However, changing the name of your business registration is considered a new registration and the relevant fee applies. Changing the type of registration, e.g. a partnership registration to a sole proprietorship, or changing all the partners in a partnership, is also considered a new registration.
If the business ceases to operate, you should cancel your business name registration. There is no filing fee for the cancellation of a business name.
The amended or cancelled registration can be submitted to the Branch by mail or in person at the Public Office in Toronto. Alternatively, the registrant can amend or cancel a business name registration online through the ServiceOntario website at Ontario.ca. The registrant will receive confirmation of the changes by mail in approximately three weeks.
Are there restrictions on what my business name can be?
Yes. When choosing your business name, remember that certain words or expressions cannot be used. These include:
- Words or expressions, in any language, that are obscene or objectionable in nature.
- Words that imply the business is a different type of organization. For example, you may not imply that a sole proprietorship is a partnership. You may not use numbers or words that imply the business name is a corporate number name. Also the registered name of a business carried on for profit should not contain words that imply it is a not-for-profit organization. (e.g. “The Ontario Society of Social Workers”).
- The words “college,” “institute” and “university” have special meaning to indicate a postsecondary educational institution. You may not use these words in a business name without written permission from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. To request permission to use “college” or “institute”, complete an online application. If you have a question about using the word “college” or “institute,” contact the private career colleges branch at firstname.lastname@example.org. To request permission to use “university,” contact the universities branch at PostsecondaryAccountability@ontario.ca
- You may not use the words “Limited”, “Limitée”, “Incorporated”, “Incorporée”, “Corporation”, or the corresponding abbreviations “Ltd.”, “Ltée”, “Inc.” or “Corp.”, unless the word “limited” is used in the name of a limited liability partnership, extra-provincial limited liability company or in the name of a limited partnership formed under the Limited Partnerships Act.
- You may not use the words “Limited Liability Partnership” or the abbreviation “LLP” in the business name unless you are registering an Ontario limited liability partnership or an extra-provincial limited liability partnership.
- You may not use the words “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviation “LLC” in the business name unless you are registering an extra-provincial limited liability company.
- Words that are prohibited under federal or Ontario laws or words that are restricted unless the restriction is satisfied.
- Words that imply the business is connected with the Crown, the Government of Canada, of a province or of a territory, a municipality, or an agency of the Crown, government or municipality, without written consent of the appropriate authority.
- Names of individuals may not be used unless they have or had a material interest in the business activity and have given their written permission. If the individual is deceased and his or her name is used within 30 years of the date of death, the written consent of the estate or the estate trustee (i.e. the executor or administrator) must be obtained.
I have more questions.
Where can I get help?
For general help with setting up your new business, you can always reach out to the staff at META!
We can guide you through the process, and offer support with funding and other startup concerns.
For more information specifically about registering a business name, you can also read through the guide on Ontario.ca
*The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice. Information is valid only as of the date of publication. Please always consult the relevant government websites for the latest information, requirements, and links.