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Trading Name vs. Business Name

Expert: Alison R. Manzer

Rob asked:

My question relates to: Trading Name vs Business Name - Legal and Financial implications for more than one 'business.'

I intend to start two unique businesses: 1. An online retail based company and 2. A service based company (IT and office oriented). One and two require different 'NAMES' for branding purposes (definitely two different websites - they need to be unique).

My questions are:

  1. Do I need to register both names as businesses (and therefore provide different sets of accounts for each);
  2. Do I need a different bank account for each;
  3. Do I need a different set of accounts for each;
  4. Can I use my PERSONAL bank account and VISA card for company purchases as a sole proprietor.

Alison R. Manzer answered:

This answer is given based on you having decided to conduct business in your personal capacity; as a sole proprietor. You should get advice as to the use of alternate business structures which could isolate you from liability; and separate your businesses for the same purpose.If you intend to operate as a sole proprietor with two different "business persona" then the answers to your questions are:

  1. You do not need to make a business name registration to use a selected name for public presentation of a business. The registration allows you to use the name for many of the legal and business functions of the enterprise and does give some protection to the name. It is recommended but not necessary when you want to use a name to identify and promote the business. If you are using two different names then the two registrations are recommended.

    This is not the registration of the "business" but of the name as used in the business. You may need business registrations, licences, and that should be reviewed. You should ensure the business names you want to use are available and do not infringe the rights of other holders of the name or similar names. The registration of a business name for you to use does not create a"separate business" or a separate entity from you, rather it allows you to carry on an activity using that name.

    You are still the proprietor the business and all accounts, invoices, legal documents and so on will need to be in your name as the operator of the business. Therefore, no you do not need separate accounts for the business, they are in law a single business operated by you. You may want to do some separation for your tracking and management reasons.

  2. No. As I have noted above the business is legally you as the proprietor and the use of different names does not change that.
  3. No. As discussed above you do not need different sets of accounts for the different names.
  4. Yes. The business is you and you can use the credit and accounts that you wish. I however caution against that as it will make record keeping for the business, as separate from the personal very difficult. This may cause issues with deducting business expenses from the business revenue because of difficulty of proof an expense was for the business. The use of a business specific account and credit is recommended.

About the author

Alison R. Manzer works for Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP.

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