feature image

U.S Companies Doing Business in Canada

If you have been curious about the feasibility of U.S. companies engaging in business activities in Canada, rest assured that it is indeed possible. However, it is crucial to understand and adhere to the various implications and regulations that every foreign company must comply with when operating in a foreign jurisdiction.

This article will address the overview topics any American company should know about Canada to operate a successful and long-lasting business. It is highly recommended to seek guidance from local legal professionals or certified public accountants for personalized advice.

You might be interested in Florida's SB 264: Exploring Foreign Property Ownership Laws

Can a non-Canadian citizen start a business in Canada?

The answer is yes, non-Canadian citizens can establish businesses in Canada. However, it's important to consider certain factors. 

Business Structure

Remember, navigating the Canadian market can involve legal and regulatory complexities, so seeking professional guidance from lawyers and accountants is always a wise step. 

  • Sole Proprietorship: The simplest and most common business structure, in which you and your business are considered one entity. It is easy to set up and cost-effective, but it comes with unlimited personal liability for all debts and obligations. Taxes are filed on your tax return.
  • Partnership: A collaboration between two or more individuals who share ownership, profits, and losses. It can either be a general partnership with unlimited liability for all partners or a limited liability partnership (LLP) where personal liability is limited to individual investment. While more complex than a sole proprietorship, it offers the advantage of shared expertise and resources.
  • Corporation: A separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders). It provides limited liability for shareholders, protecting personal assets. Setting up and maintaining a corporation is more complex and expensive, requiring separate corporate tax filing. However, it offers flexibility for growth and attracts investors.

How to register a foreign company in Canada?

The registration process for a foreign company in Canada can vary depending on your specific goals and circumstances. However, here is a general overview to guide you:

1. Choose your Registration Option

  • Incorporate a subsidiary: This option entails the creation of a distinct legal entity in Canada, separate from your current company. It protects against limited liability and necessitates registration with both the province where you are conducting business and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
  • Register a branch: You will need to register with the province you are operating in and the CRA, but it does not create a separate legal entity.
  • Business without incorporating or registering: This may be possible for limited activities like attending trade shows. However, you may need to appoint a representative for service and obtain a Federal Business Number (FBN).

2. Determine Applicable Province

Determine the province(s) in which you will be operating. Each province has its own set of registration requirements and forms that must be followed.

3. Gather Required Documents

The precise documents will vary, but commonly required items include:

  • Certificate of good standing from your home jurisdiction
  • Proof of incorporation documentation
  • Bylaws
  • Director and officer information
  • Business activity description
  • FBN application (if needed)

4. File Registration Forms

Every province has its own online or paper forms for registration. It is advisable to visit their official websites or reach out to the relevant government agencies for detailed instructions.

5. Register with the CRA

Acquire an FBN, which is essential for various tax purposes. Additionally, depending on your business activities, you might need to file initial income tax returns.

Canada Revenue Agency Building

Canada Revenue Agency

The Canada Revenue Agency is the revenue service of the Canadian federal government and most provincial and territorial governments. The CRA collects taxes, administers tax law and policy, and offers tax credits and benefit programs.

You might be interested in The Benefits of Outsourcing Human Resources Operations


Income Tax Information for a Foreign Company in Canada

Non-resident corporations must file their T2 return, schedules, and General Index of Financial Information in Canadian funds only. They are not eligible to file in a functional currency under section 261 of the Income Tax Act.

What is Form T2? A non-resident corporation must file a T2 return with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) if the corporation conducts business activities in Canada or sells taxable Canadian property at any point during the tax year. This requirement remains applicable even if the corporation claims that any profits or gains are exempt from Canadian tax under the provisions of a tax treaty.

To claim a treaty exemption, the corporation must complete Schedule 91, which provides Information Concerning Claims for Treaty-Based Exemptions, and then attach it to the T2 return.

Tax Withholding Rate for Foreign Company Pay

All payments received for services provided in Canada are subject to a 15% tax withholding, which must be remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by the individual or entity making the payment. This withholding serves as a prepayment towards the potential tax liability of the corporation to Canada.


In conclusion, U.S. companies can indeed establish businesses in Canada, but it is important to understand the legal and regulatory complexities involved.  It is important to be aware of the income tax requirements for foreign companies in Canada, including filing the T2 return and complying with tax withholding rates. Overall, with the right knowledge and guidance, American companies can operate a successful and long-lasting business in Canada. To learn more about the specific implications and regulations, it is recommended to engage further with professionals who specialize in Canadian business operations.

About the Author