How To Get A Master Business License In Ontario in 2024

How To Get A Master Business License In Ontario in 2024

Knowing how to get a Master Business License in Ontario can save you legal complications when starting a business. Also, with a Master Business License, you will unlock various benefits for your company.

A Master Business License allows you to open and run a business under a name other than your legal name. An MBL also lets you open bank and tax accounts and acquire checks.

You may also qualify for special discounts from suppliers. The registration process for an MBL can be conducted online, at a Service Ontario branch, or by mail.

As a new business owner, you must consider several aspects of running an organization. This might include opening a corporate bank account, getting clients through your door, or setting up Google My Business.

While checking those boxes is essential, you must ensure you’re running your business legally. That’s where a Master Business License comes in.

This post will show you how to get a Master Business License in Ontario. We’ll also examine the costs involved and how to renew an MBL once it expires. Let’s dive into what a Master Business License is first.

What is a master business license (MBL)?

A Master Business License (MBL) is a convenient option to operate a company under a name different from your legal name. It allows you to register the following types of businesses:

  1. Sole Proprietorship: refers to a business solely owned and operated by one person.
  2. General Partnership: involves a business co-owned by two or more people or corporations. Stakeholders don’t have a set percentage of ownership or responsibilities. Therefore, it’s vital to state those specifics in the partnership agreement.
  3. Trading Name: represents the name under which an existing business operates. Corporations can register a trading name in Ontario to open multiple business locations under different names. Or to offer new products and services distinct from your corporate name.
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The benefits of a master business license

With a validity of five years, the MBL offers an affordable way to start a business. When you know how to get a master business license in Ontario, you can conduct business under a chosen name within the region. You can also do the following:

  • Acquire checks
  • Advertise your business under its registered name
  • Open bank and tax accounts under the name you registered
  • Create marketing materials with the name you registered, such as business cards

In addition, a Master Business License gives you access to wholesale pricing or special discounts from suppliers. However, there are certain limitations to an MBL. It doesn’t protect you against other businesses with similar names in Ontario or the liability of individuals.

Moreover, you don’t get corporate tax benefits or continuous registration. There’s also limited flexibility for making changes to the registration.

Typically, a Master Business License registration includes the business name, address, owner’s name and address, and nature of the business. Additionally, you will receive a Business Identification Number (BIN).

Note that your BIN differs from your Business Number (BN). Your unique BIN serves as an identifier for provincial business accounts managed by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services.

Incorporating your business

While looking into how to get a master business license, you may consider incorporating your business. This entails creating a legal entity that has the rights of a person and is independent of its shareholders.

Some entrepreneurs choose to go the incorporation route to reap benefits. Whether they have a large team or operate a business alone.

This is because incorporation protects you from personal liability. A corporation functions as a distinct legal entity. Therefore, its liabilities and debts aren’t automatically those of the owner.

A Master Business License doesn’t offer the same protection. However, it’s an excellent option for registering a sole proprietorship. Down the line, you can consider incorporating to reap additional benefits.

Now that you know what an MBL is, let’s look at how to get a Master Business License in Ontario.

How to get a master business license in Ontario - comparewise

How to get a master business license in Ontario

Learning how to get a Master Business License in Ontario is simple. The following are the three options you have to apply for one:

  1. In-person: If you live in Ontario, you can submit your Master Business License in person at any Service Ontario location.
  2. Online registration: The Ontario Business Registry provides a service portal to submit an application online. Alternatively, you can register through a third party.
  3. By mail: Mailing your application is another option if you can’t access the internet.

Registering online is the simplest and quickest approach when learning how to get a Master Business License in Ontario. You can use a service like Ownr.

Or another third party can guide you through how to apply for a master business license in Ontario. However, other registration options are available.

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Registration requirements

While understanding how to get a Master Business License in Ontario, you should also note the requirements. At a minimum, you must be 18 years of age or older.

You aren’t required to be a permanent resident or citizen of Canada. However, check with Immigration Canada to ensure your immigration status won’t disqualify you from applying for an MBL in Ontario.

How to renew a master business license in Ontario

Master Business Licenses are valid for 5 years. To maintain active status, you must renew your license following this period. You’re allowed a 60-day grace period post-expiration, within which you can still renew your license.

Your Business Identification Number (BIN) is required for amending or renewing your license. And the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services typically processes renewals within 3 to 5 business days.

Knowing when and how to renew a Master Business License is essential. The government will not send any reminders for renewals.

Therefore, you must renew your Master Business License after it expires within the brief grace period. If your license exceeds its expiration date, you must register a new Master Business License. And you will receive a new BIN.

You can request a Document Replica if you lose or misplace your license before expiration. This is an official government-issued replacement copy of the Master Business License.

To request it, call or email Service Ontario. Alternatively, log in to the portal you used to register for your first Master Business License.

Although it may appear different from the original document, it contains identical information, including the BIN. You can use it as you would your initial license to open bank accounts or conduct real estate transactions.

However, if you only want to know your BIN, log in to the Ontario Business Registry to find it. Note that as of October 2021, a new system was put in place. Therefore, if you received an MBL before that date, your business data was moved to the new system. And you’ll need to get a company key to access it.

Updating, changing, and canceling your master business license

Certain aspects of your business license can be updated during the renewal process, while others must remain unchanged. You can update addresses for the business and owners and business activities.

And in the case of partnerships, you can add or remove partners if it remains a partnership (involving multiple people). Note that there must be at least two people staying when removing partners.

Additionally, suppose you’re renewing a trading name under a corporation that has amended its name or amalgamated. In that case, such changes can be made during renewal. However, you can’t change the following:

  • Business name
  • Corporate name, if unchanged
  • Type of registration (Sole proprietorship, general partnership, or trade name)
  • The individual’s name, if registered as a sole proprietorship
  • Change authorizing director’s information

To amend your business license before it expires, you can do so at a Service Ontario branch or by mail. Alternatively, you can make changes online using your Ontario One Key login. If you don’t have one, request it online. You can then use the Change of Business Information tool.

You must cancel the associated business license if you’re closing your business. And you’ll have to inform the Canada Revenue Agency of the cancellation. This will ensure an audit isn’t conducted, and your annual return isn’t affected because you abruptly closed your business.

How much is a business license in Ontario?

When getting a business license in Ontario, you will typically incur the following costs:

  1. NUANS report generation: You may want to generate a NUANS report to determine if your chosen name is already used. This can cost anywhere between $8 and $26, depending on the records you search for.
  2. Master Business License registration: An online Master Business License with the provincial government has a $60 filing fee. However, submitting an application in person or by mail through Service Ontario costs $80.
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How to get a master business license in Ontario: the bottom line

When determining how to get a Master Business License in Ontario, understand when it’s needed. If you’re looking to register a sole proprietorship, general partnership, or trade name, you’re required to get an MBL.

You can apply for an MBL online, in person, or by mail. With a Master Business License, you can open bank and tax accounts. And take advantage of wholesale pricing and special discounts from suppliers.

You can also lawfully advertise and promote your business on marketing materials. This includes business cards, billboards, and TV commercials.

Note that a Master Business License is valid for five years. After this period, you must renew it within 60 days of expiration.

To ensure you don’t miss this date, create a reminder on your calendar on every device you own. You might also want to add it to your spouse or family member’s calendar in case.

Also, suppose you plan to operate a commercial business in an industry like medicine or agriculture. In that case, you might need an additional license.

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FAQs about how to get a master business license in Ontario

Do I need a business license in Ontario?

This will depend mainly on the type of business you plan to register. You'll need an MBL to operate a sole proprietorship or partnership under a different name from your legal name. The same applies when you want to register a trading name. However, if you plan to incorporate your business, you usually won't need a Master Business License.

Can I apply for an MBL in person or by mail?

Yes. You can apply for a Master Business License in Ontario in person at any Service Ontario branch. You can also mail your application.

How long does it take to get an MBL in Ontario?

Processing times for Master Business License applications vary based on your application method. Suppose you submit your application after hours through the Service Ontario website. In that case, receiving feedback may take up to two weeks. However, applying in person or within business hours may take less time.

Can I change my business name after obtaining an MBL?

Yes, you can change your business name anytime, but you must apply for a new MBL. With your existing Master Business License, you cannot amend your business name.

How do I get a business license in Ontario?

You can register online to get a master business license in Ontario by following these steps:

  1. Search the Ontario Business Registry to determine if your business name is already in use
  2. Create a ONe-key account
  3. Log in to your ONe-key account and register for a Service Ontario account
  4. Log in to your Service Ontario account to begin your business registration


March 31, 2023
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