The tax ID number (also called a Business Number) is part of the 15-character program account number assigned to your business by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The program account number consists of three parts:
- Nine-digit Business Number (BN) that identifies your business
- Two-letter identifier for the program type
- Four-digit reference number for the program account
An account number would look like this: 123456789 RT0001
Think of your Business Number as your business tax ID number because that's why it exists. The CRA assigns your company a Business Number when you first register for any one of the four major program accounts you will need to operate your business:
- Goods and Service Tax (GST)/Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)
- Payroll deductions
- Import/export privileges
- Corporate income tax
The nine-digit tax ID number (Business Number) is the same across program accounts; the numbers for the program ID and account number will change based on which of the four it's referring to. You can apply for the number through The Canada Revenue Agency's Business Registration Online service.
Note that in Quebec, the Business Number does not include your GST/HST accounts. You must register for a separate GST/HST account with Revenu Québec. Its General Information Concerning the QST and the GST/HST provides further clarification.
Several other tax accounts, such as Excise Tax, require a tax ID number/Business Number if they apply to you.
Does Every Business Need a Tax ID Number?
If your small business does not need any of the tax accounts listed above (i.e., you are a Small Supplier in terms of the GST/HST, which means you don't have to register for GST/HST), then your small business doesn't require a Business Number.
For businesses, the CRA's small supplier definition states that to qualify as a small supplier, your total taxable revenues (before expenses) from all your businesses are $30,000 or less in the last four consecutive calendar quarters and in any single calendar quarter.
Do I Need a Separate Number for Each Business I Own?
If you are a sole proprietor with multiple businesses who needs a Business Number, one Business Number will cover all of them, as long as none of those businesses is a partnership, trust, or corporation. If so, each will need its own Business Number.
How Do I Get a Tax ID Number?
You can register for a Business Number from CRA several ways:
- Online using the CRA Business Registration Online (BRO) service
- By phone at 1-800-959-5525; you will have to verbally answer the questions from form RC1
- By filling out form RC1, Request for a Business Number (BN) and mailing or faxing it to the nearest tax service office or tax center
You can register for any of the program accounts at the same time you request a Business Number.
What if I Need My Business to Be Federally Incorporated?
If you intend to incorporate your business federally, the Business Number is supplied by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) when your incorporation is approved. To apply for federal incorporation you can visit Corporations Canada and be sure to learn the difference between federal and provincial incorporation beforehand. After receiving the Business Number from ISED, you can apply for any of the above-mentioned tax ID program accounts through the CRA.
BRO Links With Online Provincial Business Registries
The CRA has forged partnerships involving the Business Number with many of the provinces, including:
- British Columbia
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick
For these provinces, the Tax ID number/Business Number is the main business account identifier for an ever-increasing number of provincial programs.
When you finish registering your Business Number (using the Business Registration Online service) you can transfer directly to an online provincial business registration service to register your business in any of the following provinces:
- British Columbia – OneStop Business Registry
- Ontario – ServiceOntario – Business Services
- Nova Scotia – Registry of Joint Stock Companies
Other program sign-ups can be performed at the same time. For instance, when you register online for a Business Number for a business in Ontario, in addition to registering a business name you can also register for the Ontario Employer Health Tax and with the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.