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Are you thinking of forming a co-operative? Co-operatives are owned by an association of people or businesses that pool their resources to meet a common need. A co-operative offers democratic control – each member gets one vote. Because the business is considered a legal entity, the business structure limits the liability of a cooperative's members. It also allows the organization to acquire assets, go into debt, enter into contracts, and more.

Canadian co-operatives operate in a variety of economic sectors such as agriculture, food, social services (e.g. health care, housing), retail and wholesale, fishing, energy, recreational services, and financial (including insurance).

The following information is meant to help you navigate the world of co-operatives. For general information on business start-up, consult our sections on starting and planning.

On this page:

About co-operatives

Learn more about the various types of co-operatives to determine if this business model is a good fit for you.

  • An Information Guide on Co-operatives

    Is the co-operative business model for you? Learn about the business structure, how to form a co-op, the legislation across Canada and more.

  • Co-operatives overview
    Applies only to: Manitoba

    Learn more about co-operatives in Manitoba: model, types, management and structure.

Incorporate as a co-operative

You can choose to incorporate as a co-operative with either your provincial/territorial government or with the federal government. Your choice will depend on whether you intend to operate in more than one province or territory. Make sure you understand the rules you need to follow to remain in good standing, and know how to make changes to your organization and what your obligations to members are.

Provincial/territorial co-operatives

Find information about the incorporation process from your provincial or territorial registrar.

  • Corporate Registry

    To conduct business in Alberta, register your cooperative, corporation, extra-provincial company, non-profit company, society, trade name and/or partnership.

British ColumbiaManitoba
  • Cooperatives

    Learn how to start and operate a cooperative in Manitoba.

New BrunswickNewfoundland and LabradorNorthwest TerritoriesNova Scotia
  • Co-operatives

    Learn how to start and operate a co-operative in Nova Scotia.

  • Legal registries (Nunavut)

    In order to do business in Nunavut, you must register with the territory, even if you live in or have a business established in another part of Canada.

OntarioPrince Edward IslandQuébec
  • Setting up a cooperative (in French only)

    Do you want to create or start a cooperative? If so, learn more about the laws, programs, policies and tools related to starting a cooperative.


Federal co-operatives

To incorporate a co-operative at the federal level, you must intend to carry on your business and/or have a fixed place of business in more than one province or territory. 

When you incorporate as a federal co-operative, you are also required to register your business in the province or territory where you will be operating.

If you operate in more than one province or territory, you may need to register with those regions as an extra-provincial or extra-territorial corporation.

Regulations and taxation

There are certain rules that all businesses must follow. This includes charging GST/HST on taxable goods and services if you do not qualify as a small supplier. Other obligations could apply if you undertake certain business activities such as hiring, marketing, selling and importing. The Canada Revenue Agency considers a co-operative that is a legally incorporated business to be a corporation for income tax and GST/HST purposes.

  • Register for a GST/HST account

    Get all the information you need to understand how to charge, collect and submit GST/HST.

  • T2 Corporation - Income Tax Guide

    If you operate a corporation, you need to file a T2 corporation tax return every year. Learn how to complete this return.

  • Federal tax information

    Get information about federal taxes and how they affect your business. Learn about GST, HST, payroll deductions, income tax and more.

  • Provincial and territorial tax information

    Get information on provincial and territorial taxes and find out how to collect sales tax from your local and out-of-province customers.

  • Regulated business activities

    Learn about regulations that apply to key business activities such as exporting, importing, marketing, and managing employees.

  • Permits and licences

    Find the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal permits and licences that you may need to start or manage your business.

Support organizations for co-operatives

Seeking the advice of peers, professional business counsellors and associations can help you develop and strengthen your business.

Programs and services available

Discover some of the programs and services that are available to your co-operative.

You may also be eligible for other government programs. Find a list of programs from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as private sector financing, including debt and equity.

Programs for non-profit co-operatives

If your co-operative operates as a non-profit organization, you could qualify for these additional programs if you meet the eligibility requirements.

If your co-operative provides services to official language minority communities, you could qualify for funding. In all regions except Southern Ontario, your co-operative must be a non-profit to qualify. The program is delivered by several government departments.

If your co-operative is a non-profit learning organization, you could qualify to get free computers for your school.

Your non-profit co-operative could qualify for funding to help hire a youth for an internship in the field of information and communications.

As a non-profit co-operative in Southern Ontario with a mandate of economic development, you could obtain financing to carry out business-led research and development activities.

As a non-profit co-operative in Southern Ontario with a mandate of economic development, you could obtain financing for projects that can help diversify your region’s economy.

Your non-profit or non-commercial organisation could qualify for funding for projects that deliver long-term employment and economic capacity building in rural communities of Atlantic Canada.

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