Businesses are subject to many statutes in addition to the normally thought of Income Tax Act and relevant Corporations Acts. In Alberta, the Municipal Government Act, as amended, and the Planning Act, as amended, and their regulations, give municipalities the authority to license, control and tax businesses. Other statutes at the local government level include the School Act, Municipal and School Administration Act, Municipal Taxation Act and Municipalities Assessment and Equalization Act in respect of property taxation; and the Safety Codes Act (for uniform building standards, fire prevention, and other codes) and the Public Health Act in respect of standards applied through municipal development and inspection processes in regulating businesses. Municipalities include cities, towns, villages, counties, municipal districts, summer villages, improvement districts and special areas in Alberta. Since the majority of new small businesses will be located within Calgary or Edmonton, where the most stringent controls are likely to apply, the bulk of the materials contained here relate to those cities. In other areas, it is strongly advised that you check with your municipal office to determine applicable regulations.
Most municipalities may require all businesses other than farms, to be licensed annually. Many municipalities, and certainly the larger urban ones, also levy a business tax for various purposes. All municipalities require a development permit before a business constructs, or makes alterations to a commercial or industrial facility. This must be done to ensure that their obligations and yours are met in accordance with the Safety Codes Act (building standards and fire prevention).
When you are planning to set up a business in a larger municipality, the first step is to make an enquiry and/or application to the development control office. Whether you are planning a business operating from your home, or from some existing commercial or industrial facility, it is your obligation to ensure the facility is suitably zoned for your operations. Where it is obvious that the facility is appropriately zoned, you are able to proceed without a development control approval. For example, this case would apply if you were setting up a business in an existing office building, or taking over a retail space. In the case of purchasing an existing business, municipal licenses may be transferred subject to license inspection approval. However, you are advised to check the current zoning status of the facility.
In Edmonton, home occupation development permits are divided into Minor and Major categories. The minor category, at an application cost of $30, permits employment only of a resident of the dwelling, no more than one business visit per day and business activity only within the dwelling. The major category, at an application cost of $80, permits employment of up to two non-resident people on site at any time, any number of business visits that will not create pedestrian or vehicle or parking problems, and use of the garage for business purposes. For commercial or industrial enterprises, there could be fees for activities such as building permits and development applications.
The Edmonton Development Control Section may either be contacted by website, phone, or by a 24-hour fax information and applications service. All information brochures, application forms and fee schedules can be obtained by internet or fax. Applications can be submitted by Fax when paying by VISA or Mastercard. One of their many brochures is entitled Starting Your Own Business?. It contains a list of helpful steps you can follow. Alternately, the Business License Section can advise you about licensing and development requirements.
The City of Calgary also has a permit and license system for home based businesses as well as commercial or industrial enterprises. Fees vary.