How to Get a GST Number in Canada: GST Registration

Almost all Businesses in Canada Need a GST Number

Couple in office filling out tax form
••• Getty Images

What Is a GST Number?

The GST number is essentially a tax number assigned to your business by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). It's also known as a Business Number (BN) because it's not just used for collecting, reporting and remitting GST/HST but also for any other business your business does with the CRA. For instance, you will use your "GST" number for your business's corporate income tax if your business is structured as a corporation, and for your payroll deductions account if your business has employees.

You will also use your GST number (Business Number) in the course of doing business.

Once you have one, you need to show your GST Number on all of your invoices. (See How to Invoice With PST and/or How to Invoice With HST for a sample of how this is done and a list of other information that must be on your invoices by law.)

Does Your Business Need a GST Number (Business Number)?

Most businesses do. Goods and Service Tax and Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) registration is mandatory for all businesses in Canada except for those deemed small suppliers.

The Canada Revenue Agency defines a GST Small Supplier as a sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation whose total taxable revenues before expenses are $30,000 or less annually. (Read the complete Small Supplier definition.) Note that provincial sales taxes or proceeds from the sale of capital property are not included in the threshold amount. 

Note also that the Small Supplier GST registration rule doesn't apply to all types of businesses; taxi and limousine operators, for instance, and non-resident performers who sell admissions to seminars, performances or other events, must always register for the GST.

But even if your business does qualify as a GST Small Supplier and you don't have to, you will probably want to register for the GST anyway. If you register for the GST/HST, you can them "reclaim" the GST/HST you've paid on business purchases, on everything from capital property through office supplies, through GST/HST Input Tax Credits.

So it's wise to register for the GST right away when you're starting a business so you can claim the GST/HST on the items you're purchasing for startup. (Because of the way GST/HST reporting and filing works, you won't be able to claim the GST/HST on these business expenses retroactively.)

See Grappling With The GST and/or HST for a fuller explanation of the Small Supplier GST exemption and how GST Input Tax Credits work. For current GST/HST/PST rates in the various provinces and territories see Sales Tax Rates for GST, HST, PST in Canada.

How Does GST/HST in Canada Work?

Once your GST/HST registration is complete and you have your GST number (Business Number), you charge your customers and/or clients GST/HST on the taxable goods and services you supply to them.

Whether you charge and collect just GST or GST and HST depends on what province your business is located in, what kinds of goods and/or services you are providing and, if your business involves shipping goods, where those goods are going. Charging Provincial Sales Taxes on Online Sales explains how to deal with taxes when you're shipping goods whether you're involved in an online business or have a bricks-and-mortar operation.

The GST/HST you collect is remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency by completing a GST/HST return identified with your GST number either quarterly or annually. (Remember; the CRA refers to this number as a Business Number (BN).)

When you are completing your GST/HST return, you can claim Input Tax Credits (ITCs) for the GST/HST you paid or owe "on purchases and expenses you use, consume, or supply in your commercial activities" (General Information for GST/HST Registrants, Canada Revenue Agency), in effect getting back the GST/HST you paid.

See Grappling With the GST/HST for more on the process of collecting and remitting GST/HST and claiming Input Tax Credits.

Common Questions About the GST/HST is a handy guide to the ins and outs of charging the GST/HST, filing and remitting the GST/HST, and dealing with the GST/HST as a non-resident.

How to Get a GST Number: The GST/HST Registration Process

Basically, for GST/HST registration, you apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a GST/HST Number. You can do this in one of three ways:

  • Over the web via Business Registration Online (BRO). BRO online registration has a number of advantages; you can also register for other CRA program accounts including corporation income tax, payroll, and import-export taxes, and if your business is B.C., Nova Scotia, or Ontario-based you can also transfer directly to the appropriate online provincial business registry when finished with GST/HST registration for whatever other registrations you may require.
  • Over the phone by calling the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-5525.

Once your GST/HST registration is complete, you'll be ready to collect and remit the GST (or HST).

Note that if your business is in Quebec, you need to contact Revenu Quebec instead at 1-800-567-4692 as they deal with GST/HST in that province.

GST/HST Forms and Guides

The Canada Revenue Agency provides many guides and pamphlets with additional information about GST/HST, including guides that are specific to particular types of businesses.