What Is the Canada Revenue Agency Business Number?

You Need a Business Number When Dealing with the Government

High angle view of GST text on coins

 Image (c) Poh Kim Yeoh / EyeEm /Getty Images

The Business Number (BN) is a unique number the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) assigns your business as a tax ID. It is a nine-digit number that is unique to your business and 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 (BN)?

You require a Business Number if you intend to register for one or more government program accounts, such as:

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
Income Tax 112346789 RC 0001
Payroll 112346789 RP 0001
HST Acct 1 112346789 RT 0001
HST Acct 2 112346789 RT 0002
Import/Export 112346789 RM 0001

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 in the table above.

The Canada Revenue Agency 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. For instance:

  • 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 Business Number. 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 Business Number). See Entrepreneurship Manitoba for details.
  • Nova Scotia - the Business Number 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 Business Number 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.)

You Might Not Need a Business Number

It's possible that a business may not need a business number if the business is not engaged in any of these activities. If you run a sole proprietorship, for instance, that qualifies as a Small Supplier (making less than $30,000 annually from all your business activities world wide and not being one of the businesses that is an exception to the Small Supplier rule) and does not have any employees, then you could operate without a Business Number. However, all businesses will need a business name.

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 legal name of the owner with no additions. 

If you are in the process of naming your new business, 5 Rules for Choosing a Business Name

 will help you choose the best name possible for your new venture.

Also Known As: BN