For the past few years, many of Ontario’s government services have become easier to access. For example, the new Ontario business registry is simpler, convenient, and more affordable for small businesses and corporations alike. This online platform makes it easy for organizations to conduct over 90 transactions, including updating business information, registering a new business, dissolving an existing business, and filing annual returns.
This new registry leverages advanced digital capabilities making it easy for Ontarians to operate a business in Ontario. At the moment, intermediaries like law firms and CPA firms are currently unable to file returns through the registry. However, updates will be made to the system in the future, allowing them access. They may, however, still file their annual returns through third-party service providers or by mail.
Existing businesses seeking access to the new registry will require a company key that will be shared with trusted firm representatives. This key, like a banking pin, will give them the authority to change profile information and file returns. In addition, existing businesses and nonprofit corporations registered before the launch will be required to register for a “One-Key” account. Only after this account has been set up will the business be able to apply for a company key. New firms registered or incorporated after October 19th, 2021, will be issued the company key during the registration.
Key features about the Ontario Business Registry
Ontario annual return
All corporations in Ontario, including foreign corporations, with a license to carry on business in Ontario, are required to file an annual return with the government of Ontario within six months after the end of each tax year. Known as the annual information return, this annual return discloses information about the corporation’s legal name, mailing address, jurisdiction information about officers and directors, date of incorporation or amalgamation, and its year-end taxation date.
The annual return was filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in the previous registry, but as per the new Ontario Business Registry, the process has changed. CRA will no longer accept the Ontario annual return on behalf of the government. Corporations must now file their Ontario annual returns directly through the registry or through authorized service providers.
Searching the public record
The Ontario business registry will allow anyone to do a free search on business and not-for-profit corporations for basic information. This includes a corporation’s full name, Ontario corporation number, the corporation’s status, type of corporation, and the head office address. Initially, one would need to pay a fee to get further information, but no fee will be paid to perform a basic search.
Creating a new business or not-for-profit corporation
Creating a new business entity or not-for-profit corporation in the new Ontario Business Registry is now possible.
Accessing an existing business or not-for-profit corporation
Businesses and not-for-profit corporations registered before October 19th, 2021, will be able to access their business and not-for-profit corporation profiles. They can also make online filings, but this will require a company key to access the registry.
Other services that can be accessed through the online registry include:
- Incorporation of a business corporation
- Incorporation of a not-for-profit corporation
- Searching or registering a business name for corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietorship.
- Filing articles of continuance for extra-provincial corporations
- Amalgamation of two or more corporations
- Dissolving an existing business or corporation
- Filing of initial returns or notice of change for the extra-provincial corporation
- Amending, renewing, or canceling a business or corporation name
- Applying for Extra-Provincial License
- Filing a declaration
Key changes in the New Ontario Business Registry
To access the Ontario business registry, one will require a company key. New businesses will be assigned company keys during registration. Existing businesses and corporations will have to request their key, and it may take a week or more before it is processed and sent to the company’s mailing address.
The previous registry required corporations to file a Corporation’s Information Act (CIA) annual return and T2 tax returns with CRA. As per the new registry, corporations will no longer file their CIA returns through the CRA but instead file directly with the Ontario ministry.
Business owners and individuals who own corporations can file their returns. However, intermediaries such as lawyers can still transact on behalf of their clients but must do so through an authorized service provider. Lawyers will not be required to have a company key to file documents on behalf of their clients.
Corporations will be required to meet specific compliance obligations, including preparing and approving financial statements, holding annual general meetings, and confirming the election of directors, accountants, and officers. This is to ensure all routine corporate changes are reported correctly and that records are updated accordingly.
Every corporation will be required to file an annual return every year and within six months of the tax year-end.
Corporations and businesses that file their returns after the given deadline will be fined a late fee. Those who default in filing their requirements will be subject to legal action.
For the past three decades, Ontarians have been working with the old business registry system, which demanded a lot of time and energy for businesses and not-for-profit corporations. However, the new business registry is a crucial step to lighten the load for Ontario businesses, thus helping in accelerating business growth in the province. In addition, all online transactions can be performed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, giving more access to government services for businesses and not-for-profit corporations.
Contact Glenn Graydon Wright LLP in Oakville for Guidance on How to Navigate the New Ontario Business Registry
Please seek advice from our tax professionals, accountants, or other financial advisors to ensure that you are well-informed about what is right for you and your business. The team at Glenn Graydon Wright LLP can review your options with you, as well as the benefits and liabilities of each as they specifically apply to you. Contact us by phone at 905-845-6633 or reach out online.