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Problems with Stripe Atlas Incorporation for Canadians

We frequently work with Canadian startups operating a U.S. (usually Delaware) company incorporated on their behalf by Stripe Atlas.  On the surface, Stripe’s assistance with incorporating this U.S. company seems convenient and an easy way to meet the U.S. entity requirements to use the Stripe payment processing platform.  However, a number of material issues are generated by Stripe when it incorporates a U.S. company on behalf of a Canadian startup.

Problem #1

It’s critical to understand that a U.S. company cannot operate out of Canada without registering as doing business in Canada (thus exposing the company to unnecessarily complicated Canadian/US dual taxation), which Stripe does not address in its standard documentation.

The common solution to this is to treat the U.S. company as a parent to (or as a subsidiary of) a new Canadian company and isolate each company’s tax obligations in their respective countries.

Problem #2

Your U.S. company formed by Stripe needs to transact with your Canadian company on an arm’s length basis, taking into account tax transfer pricing rules.  If you don’t engage in tax planning around the flow of cash and assets between the two companies, expect expensive tax problems in the future

These tax issues can typically be addressed through cross-border tax planning as documented in an Intercompany Agreement in which we address the flow of cash and assets between the two companies.  For example, in the agreement we can address which company books sales in which countries and how the cash from these sales moves between the companies.

While Stripe Atlas touts the ease and speed with which a U.S. company can be incorporated, it neglects the massive cross-border legal and accounting issues that forming a U.S. company abroad generates.  If these issues are understood before incorporating, Stripe Atlas can be a valuable tool but, if not understood and planned for, expect it to generate more problems than it solves for.

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