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Running a business in Canada is no easy feat. Entrepreneurs need a strong business plan, face high start-up costs, often struggle to find financing, and have many permits and licensing issues to keep track of – not to mention taxes! But once you get your business started, there are a few administrative tasks you need to take care of, including getting incorporated and properly registering for a business number.

What is a CRA Business Number (BN)? 

A business number is a unique, 9-digit number that identifies a business to the CRA. No businesses have the same business number.

When do You Have to Get a CRA Business Number? 

Canadian businesses are required to sign up for a business number once they incorporate, but the business number isn’t the same as the incorporation number. A BN helps you interact with the federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government and is required if you need any CRA program account, including GST/HST, payroll, or import/export.

For more information, go to CRA registration and provincial or other federal programs.

CRA Business Number (BN) Breakdown 

The BN is the first nine digits of your company’s HST account number. Please ensure that the BN you enter corresponds with your company name at one of the following links: Industry Canada or Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If not, you must attach a copy of a CRA-issued document containing your BN in the Supporting Documents of the application.

Types of CRA Program Account Identifiers

Each business has varying operations, requiring them to sign up for certain CRA program accounts in addition to signing up for a business number. 

GST/HST

If your business charges GST/HST, you’ll need to sign up for a GST/HST number. Any business or corporation charging tax on products and services making more than $30,000 per year (along with other inclusions) must register for GST/HST.  

Payroll Deductions

If your company pays employees and deducts payroll costs in taxes, you will need to open a CRA Payroll Program Account. You can do this online or via telephone by calling 1-800-959-5525. Before you register, make sure you have the following information handy:

  • Employee payments dates (including first date of payments)
  • Pay period (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.)
  • Number of employees
  • Franchisor information (name)
  • Country of operations
  • Payroll service name

Additionally, if you do not have a business number you can automatically obtain one when you sign up for a CRA Payroll Program Account.

Imports and Exports

If your company imports or exports goods internationally, you will need to sign up for a CRA import-export program account

Before registration, make sure you have the following information:

  • Program type – importer, exporter, or both
  • Types of goods imported and exported
  • Estimated value of goods
  • Mailing and physical address, if different from business information
Corporation Income Tax

If you would like to incorporate your company provincially or territorially, you will have to register for a Business Number, as well as a CRA Corporation Income Tax Program Account. However, if you’ve incorporated your business with Innovation, Science, Economic Development Canada, or in any of the following places, you will automatically receive a Business Number.

  • Alberta 
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Saskatchewan;

To register for a Corporation Income Tax Program Account, make sure to have your corporation name, certificate number, jurisdiction, and date of incorporation handy. 

Need extra capital to get your business off the ground? Check out these business loans for small businesses.

Registered Charity

If you’re a charity, you will need to complete a series of steps to register as a charitable organization before applying for a business number. For more information, visit the CRA’s webpage on how to register as a charity. 

Information Returns

You are required to register for an information return program account if your business files any of the following returns:

  • Return of Investment Income (T5)
  • Return of Benefits (T5007)
  • Return of Securities Transactions (T5008)
  • Partnership Information Return (T5013)
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution receipt return
  • Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP) contribution receipt return
  • Tax payable on non-Qualified Investments
  • Part XVIII Information Return – International Exchange of Information on Financial Accounts slips and summary
  • Part XIX Information Return – International Exchange of Information on Financial Accounts slips and summary
  • Filing T2202 Information Return
  • T5018
  • TFSA Annual Information Return
  • T5013 – Partnership Information Return
  • T106 – Information Return of Non-Arm’s Length Transactions with Non-Residents (only if filed by a partnership)
  • T1134 – Information Return Relating to Controlled and Not-Controlled Foreign Affiliates 

Check out if you have to file a business tax return.

Fuel Charge (CT)

If your business includes a fuel charge on certain products, you may need to register for a fuel charge program account. There are various forms of fuel charge registrations depending on your business activities, including for companies that are distributors, importers, emitters, users of fuel or combustible waste, air carriers, rail carriers, and more. 

Air Travelers Security Charge (RG)

If you’re an air carrier or a registered agent of an air carrier that charges customers security on plane tickets, you need to sign up for an air travellers security charge program account. Eligible businesses include those providing transportation to individuals on an aircraft with a maximum certified take-off weight greater than 2,730 kilograms, and more. 

Insurance Premium Tax (RN)

If you’re an insurer, broker, or agent and charge insurance premiums on your contracts, you’ll need to sign up for an Insurance Premium Tax Program Account. 

How do You Register For a CRA Business Number?

You can register for a CRA Business number by mail, fax, telephone, or online.

Business Registration Online allows you to sign up for not only a business number, but also for a GST/HST program account (RT), payroll deductions program account (RP), import-export program account ®, corporation income tax program account (RC), registered charity program account (RR), and information returns (RZ).

To apply for a business number via mail, you can print Form RC1, Request for a business number and certain program accounts, fill it out, and mail or fax it to the nearest tax service office or tax centre.

To obtain a business number over the phone, you can call the CRA’s Business enquiries number at 1-800-959-5525. You’ll need to have some information ready before you call – be prepared to answer Part A’s questions of form RC1, Request for a business number and certain program accounts, and other questions as necessary.

If your business is operating in Quebec, Revenu Quebec will administer GST/HST, and you’ll need to file your taxes with Revenu Quebec. Go to Businesses operating in Québec and GST/HST program accounts.

Final Thoughts

The administrative tasks associated with running a business can be inconvenient at best, but disastrous at worst if not taken care of properly. Make sure to register for your business number any CRA program accounts your business requires to avoid any issues in running your business. 

Chrissy Kapralos avatar on Loans Canada
Chrissy Kapralos

Chrissy is a Toronto-based communications advisor. With an English degree from the University of Toronto and editing courses under her belt from Ryerson University, she has continued her lifelong passion for writing and editing. In addition to working for Loans Canada on a variety of financial topics, Chrissy has a few years of resume writing and editing under her belt, and takes great pleasure in helping people find work that fits with their experience and passions. When she isn't working, you can find her practicing yoga, hanging out with her dog, reading up on financial and real estate news, or planning her next trip abroad.

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