Do You Need a Tax ID Number (Business Number) and How Do You Get One?

How to Get a Tax ID Number (Business Number) in Canada

A tax ID number / business number can be important to have in Canada. Image (c) Ben Pipe Photography / Getty Images

Question: Do I need a Tax ID Number or Business Number and how do I get one if I do?

Answer:

The tax ID number (a.k.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:

  • the nine digit Business Number (BN) that identifies your business 
  • a two-letter identifier for the program type 
  • a four digit reference number for the program account 

Program account number format:  123456789 RT0001

You can think of your Business Number as your business tax ID number because that's basically what the Business Number is for. The Canada Revenue Agency 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:

The nine digit tax ID number (Business Number) is the same across program accounts; the program id and number will change depending on which of the above program accounts the id/number refers to. 

(Note that in Quebec, the Business Number does not include your GST/HST accounts. You need to register for a separate GST/HST account with Revenu Québec. See Revenu Québec's General Information Concerning the QST and the GST/HST.

There are also a few other tax accounts that you will need a tax ID number/Business Number for if they apply to you, such as Excise Tax.

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 have to have a Business Number.

Do You Need a Separate Business Number for Each Business You Own?

If you are a sole proprietor with multiple businesses who does need 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 Canada Revenue Agency in one of several ways:

You can register for any of the above mentioned 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 Industry Canada when your incorporation is approved. (To apply for federal incorporation see  Corporations CanadaLearn the difference between federal and provincial incorporation.) After receiving the Business Number from Industry Canada you can then apply for any of the above mentioned tax ID program accounts through the CRA.

BRO Links With Online Provincial Business Registries

The Canada Revenue Agency has forged partnerships involving the Business Number with many of the provinces, including:

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

For these provinces the Tax ID number/ Business Number is the main business account identifier for an ever-increasing number of provincial programs.

When finished registering your Business Number using the Business Registration Online service you can transfer directly to an online provincial business registration service if you need to register your business in one of the following three provinces:

Other program signups 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
  • Register with the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

The Canada Revenue Agency's Business Registration Online service has a complete listing of all such programs.

See also:

Steps to Starting a Business in Canada

Choosing a Form of Business Ownership

How to Register a Company Name in Canada

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