Choosing the right legal status : INC, NPO, COOP…?

One of the most crucial decisions to make when embarking on an entrepreneurial venture, or when looking to breathe new life into an existing business, is : choosing the right legal status. This choice not only defines the legal structure of the company, but also influences its governance, financial liability, tax obligations and much more.

We’ll explore several key options available to entrepreneurs and managers: incorporated companies (INC), general partnerships (GPs), non-profit organizations (NPOs)self-employed workers and cooperatives (COOPs). Each of these legal structures has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s essential to understand the implications of each before making a decision.

I. Corporation (INC): Maximizing potential


A corporation, also commonly referred as a “company”,  is distinguished by the creation of a distinct legal entity that exists independently of the individuals who set it up, work for it or have an interest in it. The purpose of the corporation is to make a profit, but it can operate in any sector, and it can also promote values or a message.

This structure limits the personal liability of its founders/shareholders and protects their personal assets from the company’s creditors. It may also have certain tax advantages, and allows for tax planning. What’s more, a corporation lasts as long as its directors and shareholders allow. Thus, a corporation can exist indefinitely, provided it meets its annual legal, accounting and tax obligations.

The corporation offers a high degree of legal security. Since it has its own juridicial personality, its assets, rights and obligations are distinct from those of its shareholders, directors and officers.

Consequently, barring certain exceptions (e.g. fraud, theft), the personal assets of a company’s founders and officers (with the exception of directors’ salaries and taxes) are protected from the company’s creditors, should it be unable to repay its debts on time.


Once your company has been incorporated, the next step is to plan the rules of play between the shareholders. The shareholders’ agreement is a contract designed to regulate and structure relations between shareholders, as well as their obligations towards the company.

A good shareholders’ agreement makes it possible to anticipate the many events that may arise in the life of the company and between its shareholders. It protects your interests and those of the company in the event of conflict. It provides a framework for non-competition and confidentiality, and ensures that all work carried out by the shareholders belongs to the company (transfer of intellectual property), such as the source code, name, logo or content you may have created.

In particular, the agreement governs the transfer of shares, as these are generally points on which shareholders can disagree.

For example, you need to provide for the eventuality of a shareholder deciding to withdraw from the company, or a third party wishing to join, or the procedure to be followed in the event of a shareholder’s death. If you don’t have a shareholders’ agreement, you’ll have to refer to the law and/or the decision of a court or arbitrator to settle disputes between shareholders. That’s why a shareholders’ agreement is often a quicker and better solution than the law or the courts.


Every year, you need to update the information concerning your organization – this is known as the annual update. This is necessary even if there have been no changes during the previous period.

When corporate changes occur during the year, you’ll also need to make a current update within 30 days of these changes.

This update obligation has two components:

  • An internal component – for example, updating the minute book of an incorporated company or NPO;
  • An external component – updates to the Registraire des entreprises du Québec (REQ) and Corporations Canada.

Updates are used to validate information about your organization or, conversely, to inform you of corporate changes decided by shareholders or directors. For example, a change in assumed name, head office or the identity of those who manage and own the company.

An annual or current update is a two-step process: first, you need to draw up the appropriate resolutions, and then you need to update the information or confirm that it is up to date with the REQ and Corporations Canada, if you have a federal organization. In principle, you will receive a reminder from the REQ and Corporations Canada to file your annual declaration. If you’re unsure of the date of your last annual update or the end date of the update declaration filing period, you can easily check this information on the Internet (REQ website).

In Quebec, it is possible to file an annual update declaration, known as a “déclaration jumelée”, at the same time as your company’s income tax return. The filing period for this type of declaration may be different. You can discuss this with your accountant. This option still requires you to have resolutions.

II. General Partnership (GP): Flexible management


A general partnership in Quebec offers several key advantages and features that make it an attractive option for entrepreneurs. First of all, it offers great management flexibility, allowing partners to actively participate in the day-to-day decisions and management of the business. What’s more, this structure enables profits to be distributed directly among associates, thus promoting financial transparency. What’s more, there is no minimum share capital required, making it easy to set up the company. However, it is important to note that partners have unlimited liability for the company’s debts, which can be a major drawback. Despite this, the general partnership remains a popular choice for small family businesses and close partners in Quebec, or for projects where the desire is more to share expenses between professionals.


Collaboration and management within a general partnership in Quebec are essential to the company’s success. Partners work closely together, pooling their skills and resources to achieve the company’s objectives. Management is often more agile and responsive, as decisions can be made quickly without the need for a complex hierarchy. However, it is crucial to establish solid partnership agreements from the outset, defining the roles, responsibilities and financial contributions of each partner. Open communication and mutual trust are also essential to maintaining harmonious collaboration within the general partnership and guaranteeing its longevity.


The importance of keeping legal files and documents up to date within a General Partnership should not be underestimated. Legal files and documents, such as contracts, partnership agreements, meeting registers and tax returns, serve as evidence in the event of internal or external disputes. In addition, careful management of these documents facilitates business transactions, financing applications and audits. It also enhances the company’s credibility with business partners, customers and tax authorities. Maintaining complete and up-to-date legal documentation is therefore an essential element in the efficient management of a General Partnership.

III. Non-Profit Organization (NPO): Combining social objectives and legal structure


As a reminder, a non-profit organization (NPO) is a legal entity that pursues objectives of public or social interest without seeking financial profit, focusing instead on achieving charitable, educational, cultural or environmental missions. That said, an NPO can generate income and pay salaries!


Non-profit organizations (NPOs) offer many benefits to society. One of the main advantages is their ability to devote themselves to social, educational, environmental or cultural causes without seeking to generate financial profit. This altruistic orientation enables them to actively contribute to improving the quality of life of local and global communities. What’s more, NPOs often benefit from tax exemptions, maximizing the impact of every dollar invested in their mission. Their governance model, which generally involves democratic participation and increased transparency, fosters the confidence of donors and volunteers alike. NPOs thus play a crucial role in creating a more united and balanced world.


Creating a non-profit organization (NPO) is a process that begins with a passionate vision of solving a problem or contributing to a cause. To realize this vision, there are a few key steps to follow. First, you need to bring together a group of people who share the same passion and goals to form the Board of Directors. Next, it’s essential to define the NPO’s mission, objectives and activities, as well as draw up bylaws and internal regulations. Once this has been done, it’s time to choose an appropriate legal structure and register with the relevant authorities. Lastly, it’s important to develop a solid strategic plan, mobilize financial and human resources, and create partnerships to successfully launch the NPO and make it prosper in its philanthropic mission.


An NPO can obtain charitable status in order to issue tax receipts. That said, specific steps must be taken with the Canada Revenue Agency, once the NPO has been incorporated.

IV. Self-Employed Workers: Maximizing professional efficiency


Working as a self-employed workers offers a number of significant advantages. Firstly, it offers invaluable flexibility, allowing self-employed workers to manage their own schedules and choose the projects that interest them. What’s more, they often have greater control over their income and the opportunity to diversify their customers and sources of income. However, there are also significant challenges. Freelancers have to manage their own administration, including tax and accounting aspects, and have no access to traditional social benefits such as health insurance or paid leave. Financial stability can also be less predictable, as work can be seasonal or dependent on market demand. Ultimately, self-employment can be a rewarding option for those who value autonomy, but it requires proactive management and adequate preparation to overcome potential challenges.


Financial management and taxation for the self-employed in Quebec are of crucial importance. Self-employed workers are responsible for managing their own finances, including keeping accurate records of their income and expenses. They must also pay their taxes proactively, as they do not benefit from deductions at source like salaried employees. Quebec offers various tax regimes and credits for self-employed workers, which may require strategic tax planning to optimize their financial situation. Familiarity with tax obligations specific to the self-employed, such as quarterly tax returns, is essential to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of the tax year. Prudent financial management and a thorough knowledge of tax rules are therefore essential to prospering as a self-employed worker in Quebec.


Professional development is an essential aspect of the careers of self-employed workers in Quebec. As self-employed people, they have a responsibility to maintain and improve their skills to remain competitive in the marketplace. Quebec offers a range of resources and opportunities for professional development, including training programs, workshops, and professional associations that provide networking and advice. Self-employed workers can also benefit from tax credits for continuing professional development. Investing in professional development enables self-employed workers to stay abreast of the latest trends in their sector, acquire new skills and strengthen their position in the marketplace, which is essential to their long-term success in the world of self-employment in Quebec.


Investing in skills development is of paramount importance for self-employed workers in Quebec. In this ever-changing professional landscape, it’s essential to keep your expertise up to date. Self-employed workers must devote time and resources to training, attending workshops and acquiring new skills. Fortunately, Quebec offers a variety of training programs and tax credits to support this investment in professional development. By devoting effort to their professional development, self-employed workers can not only enrich their expertise, but also expand their customer base, increase their revenues and maintain their competitiveness in the marketplace. It’s essential to their long-term success.


Networking and the development of professional relationships are key elements in the success of self-employed workers. In Quebec, as elsewhere, these ties play an essential role in growing their clientele and expanding their opportunities. Participating in networking events, joining associations relevant to their field and using social media to establish professional connections are all ways of forging valuable relationships. These interactions can not only lead to new collaborations and strategic partnerships, but also provide valuable advice and resources. Ultimately, investing in networking and developing professional relationships in Quebec can contribute significantly to the growth and stability of self-employed workers’ careers.

V. Cooperatives (COOP): Maximizing collective participation


Collective participation in cooperatives has many advantages that are easy to understand. It means that every member has a say in decisions, and shares profits fairly. This boosts motivation and commitment, making the business stronger. What’s more, it encourages social responsibility by promoting sustainable practices and helping local communities. In short, collective participation in cooperatives is a way of creating a fairer, more equitable economy, where members have control over their economic success.


Collective decision-making and an active role for members in management are fundamental pillars of cooperatives. In this model, every member has a voice and a vote to influence the company’s direction. This guarantees democratic governance, where decisions are made according to the needs and values of the community. Members play an active role by electing representatives to the Board of Directors, contributing to strategic planning and participating in general meetings. This involvement fosters a greater sense of responsibility, transparency and trust within the cooperative. Ultimately, collective decision-making and the central role played by members contribute to the creation of more balanced businesses focused on satisfying collective needs.


In cooperatives based on collective participation, the management of resources and projects is based on principles of collaboration and fair sharing. Members work together to identify collective needs, allocate resources responsibly and decide which projects to undertake. This approach ensures efficient use of available resources, while taking into account the aspirations and priorities of the cooperative community. Project management is characterized by the active involvement of all members, maximizing efficiency and ensuring that initiatives meet the real needs of the community. Ultimately, this participatory approach fosters more democratic management of resources and projects, aligned with the cooperative’s shared values and objectives.


The choice of legal status in Quebec is a key decision for any business. Over the course of this article, we’ve explored various options, from incorporated companies to non-profit organizations, partnerships, self-employed workers and cooperatives. Each structure offers its own specific advantages and challenges, requiring a thorough understanding.

Whether you’re looking to maximize management structure, foster collaboration, combine social objectives with a legal structure, or work as an independent with careful financial and tax management, it’s essential to make informed decisions and keep your legal files up to date.

Finally, for those who opt for a cooperative, collective participation, democratic decision-making and equitable management of resources and projects are the keys to success.

Whatever your choice, it’s based on your goals, your vision and your values as an entrepreneur. A thorough understanding of the advantages and challenges of each structure will help you prosper and realize your aspirations in Quebec.

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