Section Seven: Legal Checklist -Small Business Rules and Regulations


The information contained in this section was accurate at the time of writing. However, rules and regulations change frequently. You should always check with he level of government that regulates the area you are investigating before making any decisions.

For detailed information about these and other regulations that may apply to your business, you should contact the jurisdiction responsible or contact the Canadian Business Service Centre nearest you. At complete list of business Service Centres across Canada is listed at the end of this unit.

There are a number of rules and regulations that apply to all businesses. A complicating factor is that regulations are controlled by different, sometimes, unrelated jurisdictions. These rules and regulations are put in place by:

Municipalities and Regional Governments
Provincial Governments
Federal Government
Other Regulatory Bodies Who Set Product Standards

Types of Regulations by Jurisdiction

The following areas of your business operation are covered by rules and regulations set by the above jurisdictions:

Municipal and Regional Jurisdictions
Building Inspection
Business Licenses
Fire Inspections
Health Inspection for Food Services Business
Occupancy Permits
Plumbing Inspections
Sign Permits
Various by-laws
Provincial Jurisdictions
Accommodation & Tourism
Corporation Taxes
Employee Health Tax
Employment Standards
Liquor Licenses
Numerous acts governing some specific small business practices
Occupational Health & Safety
Partnerships & Provincial
Regulation of Sole Proprietorships
Retail Sales Tax/Vendors Permit
Trade Certifications
Transport & Delivery Licenses
Worker’s Compensation
Federal Jurisdiction
Goods and Services Tax
Corporations Tax
Source Deductions
Industrial Designs

The following sections highlight some of the regulations, rules and licenses that commonly apply to small businesses. For detailed information about these and other regulations that may apply to your business, you should contact the jurisdiction responsible or contact the Canadian Business Service Centre nearest you. A complete list of business Service Centres across Canada is listed at the end of this unit.

Municipal and Regional Jurisdictions

You must also comply with local business licensing, zoning, building, and fire regulations. A fire inspection looks at fire alarm systems, accessibility to exits, and safe limits for groups of people. Most cities or townships also require businesses to obtain a permit if they intend to post an exterior sign. You should contact local authorities, such as Zoning, Planning, City Clerk, Business Inspectors, and/or Occupancy departments.

Click on Worksheet 3.4 (Word Document) to identify the municipal and regional licenses that may apply to your business.


Provincial Regulations

Retail Sales Tax:

A sales tax is imposed on all purchasers of tangible personal property who purchase the property for consumption or use. The rate of the tax varies with each Province and in some cases it is being combined or harmonized with the Federal GST. This tax is based on the fair value of the property at the time of the sale.

This tax is a tax of single incidence levied directly upon the ultimate consumer or user. A person who purchases tangible personal property for consumption or use and not for resale is subject to the tax. A buyer who disposes of goods in any manner other than by resale remains the final consumer for the purposes of the tax.

All sales made to the last or final buyer, user or consumer are taxable.

Those businesses who purchase tangible, personal property for resale to a retailer are not subject to retail sales tax.

Real property is not included as an item that is taxable.

Three major groups of sales that are not taxable are:

Sales of goods to another vendor who executes a Purchase Exemption Certificate
Sales of goods to be delivered by the vendor to points outside of the Province
Sales of goods which are specifically exempt from tax under the Act
Workers’ Compensation

All businesses with employees and or sub-contractors should consult with the local Workers’ Compensation Board office to determine premium assets.

Most new employers must pay Workers’ Compensation for employees within one month of employing help. Failure to do so may result in penalties. Rates vary depending on the type of work performed.

If you are self-employed, Workers’ Compensation is optional. If you are subcontracting, you must either have a clearance certificate from the people you hire or provide coverage for them.

Employer Health Tax

All employers must pay employer health tax to the provincial government based on the value of the salaries paid to its employees. In addition, self-employed individuals earning a net income in excess of $40,000.00 must also pay employer health tax on the value of their earnings.

Registering a Business Name

If you have decided to operate either as a sole proprietorship or as a partnership and are using a name other than your own, you must register a business name before starting your business.

If you are going to incorporate your business, you may do so either provincially or federally.

Employment Standards

The Province regulates standards concerning hours of work, health and safety, minimum wage, overtime, and vacation pay.

Click on Worksheet 3.5 (Word Document) to complete the Provincial Regulations that apply to your business.


Federal Regulations


All businesses earning revenues in excess of $30,000.00 are required to register for GST purposes.

Businesses with less than $30,000.00 in revenues may elect not to register.

Upon obtaining $30,000.00 in revenues, the business is required to register for GST and collect GST on all taxable sales.

All purchases by the business in which GST is paid are deducted from the GST amounts collected by the business. The difference is remitted to Revenue Canada taxation on a quarterly basis in most cases and on a monthly basis in cases of larger businesses.

Payroll Source Deductions

If you hire employees, you must register with Revenue Canada to obtain an employer’s number. A Small Business Employer Deduction Kit mailed to you will explain all the deductions that you are required to make, including income tax, Employment Insurance (EI), and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions. Business and Professional Income Tax Guides as well as Tax Interpretation Bulletins are also available from Revenue Canada.

The frequency of paying these source deductions to Revenue Canada depends on the number of individuals employed and the value of the payroll.


Where a business uses a trademark and wishes to maintain its exclusive use over that trademark, the business must do one of two things:

The business claims a trademark right in the trademark by affixing a symbol “TM” beside the trademark with a reference that the business has claimed this mark as an exclusive trademark.
At common law, where a business or individual uses a trademark for the first time, it is entitled to protect that mark from use by others.
The business can apply for registration of the trademark. Once registered, the symbol “R” with a circle around it is placed beside the trademark. This indicates that the trademark is in fact registered.

Where two businesses are competing over the use of a mark, the first to use the mark at common law is the one who obtains the right to use the mark exclusively. However, pursuant to the Trademark Act (Canada) the individual who first applies for registration is entitled to exclusive use of the mark notwithstanding the fact that another individual may have used the mark at common law but did not apply for registration.


Where an individual or business creates a new innovation or device, they may apply for patent protection.

Once a patent is issued, that individual or business is entitled to exclusive use of that device or product for a period of seventeen years.

Click on Worksheet 3.6 (Word Document) to determine the Federal Regulations that apply to your business