Sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or co-operative?

When you decide to start your own business, you need to determine what type of business structure best suits your needs. There are four types of business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and co-operative.

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Sole proprietorship

With this type of business organization, you are the sole owner, and fully responsible for all debts and obligations related to your business. All profits are yours to keep. Because you are personally liable, a creditor can make a claim against your personal assets as well as your business assets in order to satisfy any debts.




A partnership is a non-incorporated business that is created between two or more people. In a partnership, your financial resources are combined with those of your business partner(s), and put into the business. You and your partner(s) would then share in the profits of the business according to any legal agreement you have drawn up.

In a general partnership, each partner is jointly liable for the debts of the partnership. In a limited partnership, a person can contribute to the business without being involved in its operations. A limited liability partnership is usually only available to a group of professionals, such as lawyers, accountants or doctors.

When establishing a partnership, you should have a partnership agreement in place. This is important because it establishes the terms of the partnership and can help you avoid disputes later on. Hiring a lawyer or other legal professional to help you draw up a partnership agreement will save you time and protect your interests.




Another type of business structure is  a corporation. Incorporation can be done at the federal or provincial/territorial level. When you incorporate your business, it is considered to be a legal entity that is separate from its shareholders. As a shareholder of a corporation, you will not be personally liable for the debts, obligations or acts of the corporation. It is always wise to seek legal advice before incorporating.



More information:

Provincial or territorial incorporation


A co-operative is owned and controlled by an association of members. It can be set up as a for-profit or as a not-for-profit organization. This is the least common form of business, but can be appropriate in situations where a group of individuals or businesses decide to pool their resources and provide access to common needs, such as the delivery of products or services, the sale of products or services, employment, and more.




Registering your business

Changing your legal status

Are you planning to change the legal status of your business — for example, from sole proprietorship to partnership, or from partnership to corporation? In most cases you will have to close your existing business number (BN) and CRA accounts, and register for new ones.


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