It used to be that a law firm was the only place you could go to incorporate a company. The cost to incorporate was high, and consumers had very little choice. These days a business owner can choose to incorporate with a lawyer, or incorporate directly with an authorized service provider (registry agent), either in a registry office, or online.
Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the cost to incorporate a company in Alberta. There are lots of websites advertising low cost incorporation services for as little at $50, but these ads are very misleading and don’t reflect the true cost of incorporating.
So what does it really cost to incorporate in Alberta, and how do you find the best deal? Let’s start by comparing prices:
$400-$800 +(typical price & services)
Traditional Law Firm
$1,100-$1,500 +(typical price & services)
But what about the websites that claim the cost to incorporate is under $100?
Good question. Keep reading for a detailed breakdown of the actual cost to incorporate in Alberta, and what you’ll get for your money.
In Alberta, it’s not actually possible to register your own corporation. By “do-it-yourself” incorporation, we’re referring to an incorporation completed without the help of a lawyer, meaning with a registry agent either in person or online. It’s considered do-it-yourself and not full service, because most of the work is left up to you to complete on your own.
If you decide to go this route, there are 3 sets of fees you’ll need to pay and a number of services that will be unavailable. Let’s take a look at each of them.
The Advertised Price ($50-$150)
The price advertised for incorporation services online is often between $50-$150. The advertisements are meant to trick customers into believing that they can incorporate an Alberta company for this low price. Once you visit their site, you realize that the actual cost to incorporate is much higher.
Additional Mandatory Fees (add $350-$425)
The following are typical MINIMUM fees applicable for registration of a do-it-yourself incorporation. Add these fees to the total cost to incorporate:
|Government registration fee||$275 (fixed)|
|"Admin" and "other" fees||$75-$150|
The government fee of $275 is the same everywhere. Some sites list a higher government fee, but this is just to disguise additional service charges.
After taking into account the advertised fee and the additional mandatory fees, the minimum cost to incorporate a business in Alberta is typically around $400.
Keep in mind that this is for registration only, and doesn’t include any of the “extras” described below. Stopping here is like building a car without wheels. It’s technically a car, but it’s missing the necessary components to function properly.
Stopping here is like building a car without wheels. It’s technically a car, but it’s missing the necessary components to function properly.
“Extras” – More Hidden Costs (add $225-$450)
Another set of expenses related to a do-it-yourself incorporation is for what’s often referred to as “extras”. These often include the following items which are not included in the advertised price or additional mandatory fees and make the actual cost to incorporate in Alberta much higher:
If you decided to purchase all the extras, most of which are actually basic necessities for a corporation to be properly set up, your total cost to incorporate would be much closer to $1,000 than the advertised price of $50-$100. So much for transparency.
What’s not included with a typical do-it-yourself incorporation?
You might think that if you purchase the base package and all of the extra’s you’d be in pretty good shape. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.
Even if you purchased all of the available “extras”, you’d still be missing a number of things necessary for your corporation to be properly set up, maintained and protected.
Let’s take a closer look at exactly what you’d be missing by not using a lawyer to incorporate:
No Legal Advice – Read the Disclaimers
We’ve previously written about the importance of legal advice when it comes to incorporating a business in Alberta, so we won’t repeat ourselves. Instead, we’ll let the owners of do-it-yourself websites explain. To understand why it’s important to hire a lawyer when you incorporate a business in Alberta, all you need to do is take a look at the disclaimer of any do-it-yourself website.
It may be a little difficult to find the disclaimer, because it’s usually hidden somewhere in tiny font, however, most disclaimers are very similar and include the following terms:
To understand why it’s important to hire a lawyer when you incorporate a business in Alberta, all you need to do is take a look at the disclaimer of any do-it-yourself website.
They’re not lawyers and can’t provide legal advice.
Only lawyers can provide legal advice. Setting up a business involves important legal issues that need to be considered and addressed. You can ignore these issues, but you do so at your own peril.
If you choose to do-it-yourself, you’ll be working with someone that likely has no legal training, and is not bound by a lawyer’s code of professional conduct. Your communications will not be protected by solicitor-client privilege, and you won’t have access to a lawyer’s professional liability insurance if something goes wrong.
Compare that with our website, which is operated by lawyers and includes legal advice with every incorporation. You’ll work directly with a lawyer to ensure that your corporation is set up correctly.
You’re responsible for inputting information correctly.
Although some information is reviewed to ensure compliance with basic corporate registry requirements, do-it-yourself incorporators don’t review your information to ensure that the corporation is set up in a way that is best for your business from a legal perspective. This is because they are not authorized to practice law, and likely aren’t aware of the legal issues and problems that can arise if the corporation is not set up in the proper way. If you didn’t understand a question or requirement and inputted the wrong information in a certain field, it’s your problem. Have fun trying to fix it. You may need to hire a lawyer to do so.
You should speak to a lawyer before using their services.
Despite most do-it-yourself websites stating that you don’t need a lawyer to incorporate, they also clearly state in their disclaimers that you should speak to a lawyer before using their services. This is to ensure that if anything goes wrong they won’t be held responsible, even if their documents were incomplete or incorrect. In our experience, this happens far more frequently than you would expect.
If you need a lawyer to ensure that what they’re doing for you is correct and suitable for your circumstances, wouldn’t it be easier just to hire a lawyer to incorporate?
Incomplete Corporate Documents
The second item most often missing from do-it-yourself incorporation packages is completed documents. Your company will be registered, but there’s a good chance that several important steps will be left unfinished. This is one of the many reasons they recommend that you speak with a lawyer before using their services.
Although you may be able to purchase a corporate minute book for an additional fee, it will rarely contain all of the documentation necessary to properly set up a corporation. It will most often be in the form of fill in the blank documents with lengthy, hard to understand instructions. Failing to fill these in correctly or at all could lead to serious legal problems.
Your company will be registered, but nothing else will be done to properly set it up.
If you incorporate with our law firm, your corporation will be set up with a comprehensive and flexible share structure reducing the chances of having to make expensive changes in the future. We will also ensure that the necessary documents are completed to set up your corporation correctly the first time.
No Completed Share Certificates
Shares represent ownership of a corporation. If shares aren’t validly issued, the corporation does not have any legal owners. So why don’t most do-it-yourself websites help you issue shares as part of the incorporation process? Instead, they sell you blank share certificates (often for a hefty fee) and leave it up to you to ensure that they’re completed and issued properly, a process that requires more than just filling in blank certificates.
If you fail to ensure that shares of a corporation are properly issued, your corporation will not have any shareholders. This can lead to ownership disputes and headaches for tax purposes. It can also make it more difficult to sell your business. Perhaps this is another reason why they always recommend that you speak with a lawyer.
When we incorporate a company on behalf of a client, we ALWAYS provide a fully complete digital minute book containing the following:
- constating documents
- organizational resolutions of the directors and shareholders
- director and officer consents
- share subscriptions
- share certificates (or notices of uncertificated shares)
- completed registers and ledgers
Everything is fully customized to your situation and is sent to you for electronic signature. If you have any questions, we won’t have to tell you to hire a lawyer to figure it out. All of our incorporation packages come with legal advice from an Alberta business lawyer at no extra cost. If you factor this in to the cost to incorporate, your actual fee could be much lower than that of most do-it-yourself websites.
No Annual Maintenance
Once a corporation has been registered, it needs to be properly maintained. This includes doing the following on an annual basis:
- filing a corporate annual return with the Alberta Corporate Registry (not to be confused with the corporation’s tax return);
- filing notices regarding any changes of shareholders and directors of the corporation;
- preparing annual shareholder resolutions as required by law;
- preparing director resolutions when required;
- making updates to the corporation’s minute book.
Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to legal issues for the corporation, including having the corporation struck from the Corporate Registry (meaning it no longer exists).
Unfortunately, these services are not included with most do-it-yourself incorporations. Some are not offered at all, and others could cost you as much as an additional $750 to complete.
We believe that if you’re taking the time to incorporate a company, you probably want to keep it around. That’s why we include 1 year of annual maintenance services with our Premium and All In incorporation packages which include all of the above services. This brings the true cost to incorporate using our website down significantly. After 1 year, you can choose to continue receiving these services for a small fee.
Unfortunately, these services are not included with most do-it-yourself incorporation packages.
No Registered Office and Records Address Services
By law, Alberta corporations are required to have both a registered office and a records address. A registered office is a place at which documents, such as legal claims, can be served (delivered) upon the corporation. A records address is the place where the corporation’s minute book and other corporate documents are held.
The law in Alberta requires that the registered office and records address of a corporation be a physical location that is open to the public during regular business hours. This is to ensure that documents can be delivered to the corporation and that people who are entitled to see the corporation’s records are able to obtain reasonable access.
Very few, if any, do-it-yourself websites are willing or able to act as your corporation’s registered office and records address. This usually means that the owner’s home address (which becomes publicly listed), is selected as both the registered office and records address.
In our experience, listing the business owner’s home address as the registered office and records address often leads to problems. In addition to the address likely not complying with the legal requirement to be open during regular business hours, the minute book is often not updated when it should be, annual returns are not filed, or legal claims are not responded to in time leading to default judgments (where the party suing wins their case automatically).
Our Premium and All In incorporation packages include 1 year of registered office and records address services at no extra cost. For a small fee we can continue to act as your registered office and records address for future years. This helps to ensure that your corporation is properly maintained.
So why would you choose to do it yourself?
The only real benefit to incorporating with a do-it-yourself website or service is to save a few dollars on the initial incorporation fees. But are you really saving anything when you consider annual maintenance, legal issues and potential headaches? Is it worth the risk to your business?
Traditional Law Firms
What is the typical cost to incorporate with a traditional law firm?
The price of incorporating with a traditional law firm varies significantly depending upon where you go. Based on our research, the average legal fees you can expect to pay for an Alberta incorporation are between $750 to $1,500. Once you add in registration fees and the costs of any extras, the total incorporation cost in Alberta with a traditional law firm is typically somewhere between $1,200-$2,000.
We’re not aware of any traditional law firms that include a year of registered office and corporate maintenance services with their incorporation packages. If you incorporate with a traditional law firm and wish to receive these additional services, you’ll need to pay an additional fee. Add that to your total cost to incorporate.
Why it still might make sense to incorporate with a traditional law firm
Although the cost to incorporate may be higher, incorporating with a traditional law firm is usually a better investment than trying to do it yourself.
It may take a little longer, cost a little more, and you won’t be able to do it online, but at least it will be done by a professional. You’ll also have access to legal advice to ensure that your investment is protected.
Whether you use our services, or you use a traditional law firm, we strongly recommend that you hire a business lawyer to assist you with your incorporation and annual maintenance services. If you care about protecting your business and setting it up correctly, the higher incorporation fees are well worth it.
The best value for your money
This website was created specifically to address the needs of small business owners who want all of the benefits of incorporating with a lawyer, without the expense and typical time delay involved with doing so.
We understand that entrepreneurs want to pay as little as possible, however, incorporating with a do-it-yourself website to save a few bucks on incorporation fees can easily cost you a fortune. Luckily, with our site you get all of the benefits of a traditional lawyer, with the speed, convenience and low fixed price of a do-it-yourself website.
If you take into account the extra features and services included with our incorporation packages, we’re confident that you won’t find a better deal anywhere. When you incorporate with us you’re not just getting an incorporation, your also getting peace of mind. We want you to focus on growing your business, not paperwork.
If you take into account the extra features and services included with our incorporation packages, we’re certain you won’t find a better deal anywhere.
Need help deciding what do to?
Still not sure if you actually need a lawyer or if you’re ready to incorporate at all? If so, we invite you to click the button below for a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your business needs and how we can help.
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The information on this website is general in nature and is not intended to to be legal advice. Providing legal advice requires a formal retainer and a review of your particular fact situation. If you incorporate with us you’ll receive legal advice as part of the incorporation package.