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

Registering For a Business Number in Ontario and Other Canadian Provinces

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Question: Do I need a Business Tax ID Number (BN) and how do I get it?

Answer:

The Business Number is a 15 character identifier of your business. It actually has two parts; a nine digit number that identifies your business, and a six character portion composed of letters and numbers that identifies the particular tax account. The nine digit number part of the Business Number never changes; the second part of the Business Number will change depending on which tax account the number refers to.

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 (CRA) assigns your company a Business Number when you register for any one of the four major tax accounts you will need to operate your business:

  • the GST/HST,
  • payroll deductions,
  • import/export,
  • corporate income tax.

(Note that in Québec, the Business Number does not include your GST/HST accounts. You need to register for a GST/HST account with Revenu Québec. See the Canada Revenue Agency page Operating in Québec.)

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

Does Every Business Need a Business 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 I Need a Separate Business Number for Each Business I 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 Business 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 About Provincial Business Registration?

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:

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 Business Number is the main business account identifier for an ever-increasing number of provincial programs.

For instance, when you register online for a Business Number for a business in Ontario, you can also:

  • Register or renew a business name
  • 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

Choosing a Form of Business Ownership

How to Register a Company Name in Canada

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