India English
Kenya English
United Kingdom English
South Africa English
Nigeria English
United States English
United States Español
Indonesia English
Bangladesh English
Egypt العربية
Tanzania English
Ethiopia English
Uganda English
Congo - Kinshasa English
Ghana English
Côte d’Ivoire English
Zambia English
Cameroon English
Rwanda English
Germany Deutsch
France Français
Spain Català
Spain Español
Italy Italiano
Russia Русский
Japan English
Brazil Português
Brazil Português
Mexico Español
Philippines English
Pakistan English
Turkey Türkçe
Vietnam English
Thailand English
South Korea English
Australia English
China 中文
Canada English
Canada Français
Somalia English
Netherlands Nederlands

How to Get a Business License to Sell Products Online in Canada

Last updated on June 8th, 2024 at 07:51 pm

Starting an online business in Canada can be really exciting. But, you need to know how to get a business license to be able to sell products online in Canada.

How to Get a Business License to Sell Products Online in Canada

In this article, we’ll walk you through the key steps to get a business license for selling products online. 

We’ll help you make sure your online store is legal and ready for success.

By following this guide, you’ll be ready to set up a professional and legitimate online business in Canada. 

Let’s get started on making your e-commerce dream a reality!

What is a Business License?

A business license is a legal permit granted by government authorities that authorizes a company or individual to conduct business within a specific jurisdiction.

It is essential for legal operation and may be required at the federal, state, or municipal level, depending on the type of business.

The importance of a business license lies in its role in ensuring compliance with legal requirements, protecting consumers, and maintaining fair competition in the marketplace.

Types of Business Licenses in Canada

In Canada, the types of business licenses vary depending on the industry and location. 

Some common types of licenses include:

Federal Licenses: These are required for businesses governed by federal laws, such as aviation, firearms, and broadcasting.

Provincial Licenses: These are necessary for businesses operating within a specific province, such as restaurants, retail stores, and service providers.

Municipal Licenses: These are required for businesses operating within a specific city or municipality, such as building permits, signage, and general business operations.

Industry-Specific Licenses: These are required for businesses operating in specific industries, such as healthcare, finance, and construction.

Why You Need a Business License to Sell Products Online in Canada

Legal Requirements

In Canada, it is illegal to operate a business without the necessary licenses. 

Failure to comply with licensing requirements can result in fines, legal action, and even business closure. 

The legal requirements for obtaining a business license vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of business, but they are crucial for ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal laws.


Having a business license provides several benefits, including:

Credibility: A valid business license enhances the credibility and reputation of a business.

This demonstrates that it has met certain criteria and is committed to operating legally and responsibly.

Legal Protection: A business license provides legal protection by ensuring that a business operates within the bounds of the law, reducing the risk of legal action and fines.

Consumer Protection: Licensing helps protect consumers by ensuring that businesses meet certain standards of quality, safety, and ethics.

Tax Compliance: Registering a business helps ensure compliance with tax obligations.

This ensures that taxes are properly paid and the business is properly identified for tax purposes.

Preliminary Steps to Get a Business License to Sell Products Online in Canada

Preliminary steps to get a business license

1. Decide on Your Business Structure

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure, where the owner is personally responsible and liable for all profits and losses.


Easy to set up and manage

No need to file separate tax returns

No need to register with the government (unless operating under a different name)


The owner is personally liable for all business debts

Limited access to capital and credit

No separation of personal and business assets


A partnership is a business owned by two or more individuals who share liability.


Partners can share the workload and responsibilities

They can contribute different skills and expertise

Also, they can share the financial risks


Partners are jointly and severally liable for the business

They must agree on all major decisions

They must also share profits and losses


A corporation is a separate legal entity, owned by shareholders who are not personally liable for the business.


Limited liability for shareholders

Better access to capital and credit

Easier to transfer ownership


More complex and costly to set up and manage

Requires separate tax returns

Requires registration with the government

2. Choose Your Business Name

A unique name helps to avoid confusion with other businesses and ensures that your business stands out.

A compliant name ensures that your business name does not infringe on existing trademarks or business names.

Conduct a thorough internet search and check the Canadian corporate names and trademarks database (Nuans) to ensure the name is available.

Ensure that the desired domain name and social media handles are available to maintain consistency across platforms.

3. Register Your Business Name

Registration varies by province or territory but generally involves filing with the provincial or territorial business registry.

Federal registration is typically required for businesses operating across multiple provinces or territories.

Conduct a thorough search to ensure the name is available.

File the necessary documents with the appropriate government agency.

Pay the required fees for registration, which vary by province or territory.

Federal and Provincial/Territorial Requirements

How to Get a Business License to Sell Products Online in Canada

1. Federal Requirements

Business Number (BN) Registration

A Business Number (BN) is a unique identifier assigned by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to businesses for tax purposes.

The BN is used to identify a business for tax purposes, including GST/HST registration and reporting.

Businesses can register for a BN online through the CRA website or by contacting the CRA directly.

GST/HST Registration (If Applicable)

Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) are taxes on goods and services sold in Canada. 

Businesses that exceed the threshold for GST/HST registration must register.

These are businesses with annual revenues exceeding $30,000.

Businesses can register for GST/HST online through the CRA website or by contacting the CRA directly.

2. Provincial/Territorial Requirements

Each province and territory has its own specific requirements for business registration, licenses, and permits.

Some provinces have different thresholds for GST/HST registration, while others have different business registration processes.

Specific Procedures for Key Provinces


Businesses must register with the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

Businesses must register with the CRA if they exceed the GST/HST  threshold.


Businesses must register with the Quebec Ministry of Finance.

Businesses must register with the CRA if they exceed the GST/HST  threshold.

British Columbia:

Businesses must register with the British Columbia Corporate Registry.

Businesses must register with the CRA if they exceed the GST/HST  threshold.


Businesses must register with the Alberta Corporate Registry.

Businesses must register with the CRA if they exceed the GST/HST  threshold.

Specific Licenses and Permits


1. Industry-Specific Licenses

Certain industries require special permits and licenses in addition to general business licenses.

Examples include:

Food-related businesses: Restaurants, catering services, and food manufacturers require health department permits that outline food handling, preparation, and storage requirements.

Alcohol sales: Businesses selling alcohol need liquor licenses from the state or provincial liquor control board.

Health products: Businesses selling health products, supplements, or medical devices may require approval from Health Canada.

Childcare: Home-based childcare businesses need licenses from the provincial or territorial childcare regulatory body.

2. Zoning and Home-Based Business Permits

Zoning laws determine whether a home-based business is permitted in a residential area and what types of activities are allowed. 

Violating zoning laws can result in fines or even business closure.

Steps to Obtain Home-Based Business Permits

1. Review local zoning ordinances: Check with your city or county zoning department to ensure your proposed business activities are permitted in your residential area.

2. Obtain a general business license: Apply for a local city or county business license, which is required for any business, including home-based businesses.

3. Comply with neighborhood restrictions: If your neighborhood has a homeowners association (HOA), ensure your business meets any additional restrictions set by the HOA.

4. Obtain necessary permits: Depending on your business type, you may need additional permits such as a home occupation permit, health department permit, or fire department inspection.

Registering for Sales Tax

When it comes to sales tax, you might need to register for different types depending on your business location and sales. 

Let’s break it down.

GST/HST Registration

Who Needs to Register:

If your business makes more than $30,000 in a calendar quarter or over four consecutive quarters, you generally need to register for the GST/HST.

This applies to various businesses, including those providing services or selling wholesale. 

Even if you’re not a Canadian resident but you import goods into Canada, you can register for a sales tax recovery program.

How to Register:

Corporations can easily register online with the Government of Canada for the GST/HST. 

If you’re running a sole proprietorship, you can get your GST/HST number by contacting the CRA Small Business Team. 

You’ll need to verify your personal identity, get a business number (BN) from the CRA, and then sign up for your GST/HST account.

Provincial Sales Tax (PST) Registration

Which Provinces Have PST:

If your business operates in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or Quebec, you might also need to register for provincial sales tax (PST) on top of the GST/HST.

Registration Process:

The process to register for PST varies by province. 

For instance, in Quebec, you need to sign up with Revenue Québec for the Quebec Sales Tax (QST). 

Since 2019, businesses supplying intangible goods and services in Quebec have been required to register for QST.

So, depending on where your business is located and what it sells, you might need to register for different types of sales tax. 

Make sure to check the specific requirements for your province.

Setting Up Your Online Store

How to Get a Business License to Sell Products Online in Canada

Website Legal Requirements

To ensure your online store complies with legal requirements, it’s essential to have the following in place:

Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Terms of Service: Outlines the rules and guidelines for using your website and purchasing from your store.

Privacy Policy: Explains how you collect, use, and protect customer data, including compliance with data protection laws.

Accessibility Standards

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): Ensure your website is accessible to users with disabilities by following WCAG standards.

Accessibility features: Incorporate features like alt text for images, keyboard navigation, and clear color contrast to improve accessibility.

Ongoing Compliance and Renewals

Let’s talk about staying compliant and keeping up with renewals for your business. 

It’s something every business owner needs to handle, so let’s break it down step by step.

Which Licenses/Registrations Need to be Renewed Annually:

Business Licenses: Many places require businesses to renew their licenses every year to make sure they are still following local rules.

Professional Certifications: If you’re in a regulated industry like healthcare or finance, you often need to renew your certifications yearly to keep your credentials valid.

Software Licenses: You should renew some software licenses annually so you can keep using the software and get updates and support.

Importance of Staying Informed:

Compliance: Knowing about regulatory changes is essential to make sure your business is always following the law.

Risk Management: Being aware of these changes helps you avoid risks like fines and legal trouble from not complying with new regulations.

Operational Efficiency: Understanding new rules allows your business to adapt quickly, keeping you ahead in your industry and following best practices.


In conclusion, obtaining a business license to sell products online in Canada involves several key steps.

These include understanding the basics of business licenses, choosing your business structure, and registering your business name.

You also need to fulfill federal and provincial requirements, obtain necessary permits, and register for sales tax.

Additionally, setting up your online store and maintaining compliance are crucial steps in the process.

While the process may seem complex, following a step-by-step guide and using available resources can make it manageable.

Securing a business license not only ensures legal compliance but also builds credibility and protects your business.

Start today by researching your specific requirements and leveraging government resources and professional advice to establish a successful and compliant online business.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *