What Is the Canada Revenue Agency Business Number?
Your Business Number Is What You Need When Dealing with the Government
The Business Number is a unique number the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) assigns your business as a tax ID. It is a nine-digit identifier that is used when dealing with federal, provincial, or local governments. The Business Number (BN) may change if your business is sold or the legal structure changes; for example, you convert your business from a sole-proprietorship to a corporation or partnership.
Do I Need a Business Number?
You require a Business Number if you intend to register for one or more government program accounts, such as:
- The GST/HST (required if your business does not meet the Small Supplier definition). See Starting a Business: Register for the GST/HST, Grappling with the GST/HST, and PST, GST and HST Rates for All the Different Provinces and Territories in Canada.
- Payroll deductions (if you have employees - see Guide to Payroll Deductions). You may have more than one payroll account.
- Import/export (see Starting an Import Business in Canada and 10 Steps to Successful Exporting)
- Corporate income tax (see Canadian Corporate Tax Guide).
- Excise Duty (applies to businesses that export wine, beer, spirits and tobacco products made in Canada)
Each program account is assigned a 15 character number that uses the Business Number as the first 9 characters, then a two letter identifier for the program identifier (RT for GST/HST, RM for import/export, and RP for payroll) followed by a 4 digit reference number for the specific account, for example:
|Account||Bus. Number||Program ID||Ref. Number|
|HST Acct 1||112346789||RT||0001|
|HST Acct 2||112346789||RT||0002|
The reference number allows you to have multiple accounts under the same business number and program ID. For example, you may wish to have more separate HST accounts for different divisions of your business as demonstrated above.
The CRA is working with the provinces to incorporate the use of the Business Number for provincial programs, allowing businesses to simplify their dealings with public sector groups at all levels by using a single business number as a reference for all communications. When you register a business in a province that uses the CRA Business Number you are automatically assigned the number at registration time:
- British Columbia - provincial programs such as WorkSafeBC use the BN.
- Ontario - the Ontario government has adopted the CRA business number, see the Ontario Ministry of Labour website for more information.
- Manitoba - Manitoba corporations, cooperatives, and tax programs use the BN. Municipalities such as the City of Winnipeg also use the same number format for accounts - for example, 112346789 MM 0001 would be an example of a City of Winnipeg program account number (the first nine digits are the same as the CRA BN). See Entrepreneurship Manitoba for details.
- Nova Scotia - the BN is used for various government services in Nova Scotia, including licences, permits, registrations, Workers' Compensation Board insurance, etc. Refer to Access Nova Scotia for more information.
- New Brunswick - the BN is being phased in with various provincial departments and agencies, see Service New Brunswick for details.
- Saskatchewan - Information Services Corporation (ISC) is the company responsible for responsible for managing the CRA’s Business Number program for the province of Saskatchewan.
(If you need a business number and have not yet registered, here's how to register for a business number.)
So it's possible that a business may not need a business number if the business is not engaged in any of these activities. However, all businesses will need a business name.
On the other hand, a business name is basically what a business’s owner or owners have decided to call their company to identify it to the public - it is not necessarily unique across Canada. Usually a business owner tries to select a business name that expresses what the company does and sounds good, to make the name as attractive as possible to potential customers and/or clients.
Almost all businesses must register their business name in their province or territory of operation (or federally), unless the business is a sole-proprietorship and the business name is the name of the owner.
If you are in the process of naming your new business, these two articles will help you create the best possible business name:
Back to > Starting a Business FAQs Index
Also Known As: BN