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Guide to Start a Business

Chapter 6 - Regulatory and Licensing Agencies

You will need different licences and permits when you start a business in the NWT. The types of permits you require depends on the type of business you are starting.

All businesses in the NWT should:

Depending on the location of your business, business licences are available either from Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) or from the municipal government office. Check with your municipal government office for information.

You need to register whether you are a sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporated company or extraterritorial company (a company that is registered outside of the NWT, but carrying on business in the NWT).

You can get the registration forms from Corporate Registries. The only case in which you are not required to register with Corporate Registries is when you are a sole proprietor using your own legal name as your business name.

Businesses with employees

If you employ other people, you must register with the following organizations:

If you operate a business in the Northwest Territories for more than 10 days in a calendar year, you must register with the WSCC. To avoid late penalties, register within 10 days of starting operations. To register you will need to access WSCC Connect from and click on Register Your Business, provide details of your business operation, and provide an estimate of your payroll for the upcoming year. Owners/directors of a business may apply for Personal Optional Coverage through the WSCC. For more information visit or call 1-800-661-0792.

Payroll tax is a tax on employment income that must be collected by employers. Every employer must register with the GNWT, Department of Finance, within 21 days of their first payroll cycle for work or services performed in the NWT.

Selling to the GNWT

If your business will provide goods or services to the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), you should consider registering under the Business Incentive Policy (BIP). The BIP is a GNWT policy to support and encourage the creation and expansion of competitive NWT-based businesses as a foundation for the NWT economy. As part of that support, the GNWT may provide an incentive to NWT-based businesses when purchasing goods and services. Where applicable, the incentive provides a bid adjustment to approved BIP businesses.

BIP registration is optional but recommended. To apply to have your business added to the BIP registry, contact your regional Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) office.

If you possess a professional designation or are a member of a professional organization established by legislation please contact the appropriate department.

All businesses in the NWT that have employees must follow the Labour Standards Act, which details employee’s rights. The Act covers areas such as:

  • Maximum hours of work
  • Minimum wage
  • Vacations and holidays
  • Maternity benefits
  • Termination of employment

Employees may file a complaint if they feel their employer has not followed the Act. The employee must first file a complaint with you, the employer, before a Labour Standards Officer will investigate the complaint. Either the employer or the employee may appeal the Labour Standards Officer’s ruling to the Labour Standards Board.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment, can provide more information on the Employment Standards Act. NWT Labour Services is also responsible for issuing Extended Hours Permits, Overtime Averaging Permits and Employment of Young Persons Permits.

Human rights law in the Northwest Territories is administered by the Human Rights Commission. 

Businesses and the Canada Revenue Agency

In order to remit owed taxes with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) you need a business number. You will deal with the CRA if your business charges Goods and Services Tax (GST), pays employees, pays corporate income tax or imports and exports goods or services.

If you believe your business will generate more than $30,000 in revenue each year, you must charge GST on the goods or services you provide. Some exceptions are:

  • Groceries
  • Prescription drugs and medical devices
  • Farm produce
  • Fresh caught fish and seafood products
  • Any products or services that are exported
  • Rents paid for residential accommodation
  • Day-care services
  • Most financial services

You can register for a business number online, by telephone or through the mail. You will need to have your GNWT Corporate Registries number and the social insurance number(s) of your director(s) or owner(s) to obtain a business number. There are other federal agencies with which you may need to register. For information, call 1-800-663-3765.

Business-Specific Requirements

Depending on the type of business being established, other licences, permits or regulations may also apply. You may need to consider:

  • NWT property, fuel or tobacco taxes
  • Regulations relating to wildlife, timber harvesting or resource-based industries
  • Special licences and permits for guiding, outfitting and tourism businesses
  • Fire Marshall’s requirements
  • Liquor Commission requirements
  • Health and safety inspections
  • Regulations related to operating a tourism business

Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission

5th Floor, Center Square Mall
5022 – 49th Street
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2R3
Employer Services
Tel: (867) 920-3888
Fax: (867) 873-4596
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0792

Department of Finance – Payroll tax

Tel: (867) 767-9177
Fax: (867) 920-6133

Business Licensing

Department of Municipal & Community Affairs, Consumer Services
600, 5201 – 50th Ave.
Northwest Tower
Yellowknife, NT X1A 3S9
Tel: (867) 767-9161
Fax: (867) 873-0309

Employment Standards Office

Department of Education, Culture and Employment
YK Centre East
P.O. Box 1320
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2L9
Tel: (867) 767-9351
Fax: (867) 873-0483
Toll Free: 1-888-700-5707

Human Rights Commission

Main Floor, Laing Building
5003-49th Street
P.O. Box 1860
Yellowknife, NT X1A 2P4
Tel: (867) 669-5575
Toll Free: 1-888-669-5575
Fax: 867-873-0357

Business Incentive Policy (BIP)

Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment
YK Centre Building, Yellowknife, NT X1A 2L9

Monitoring office
Tel: (867) 875-2590 / (867) 875-2829

Canada Revenue Agency

Greenstone Building

5101 Franklin Avenue, Yellowknife, NT X1A 3Z4
Tel: (866) 841-1876