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 6 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 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,
- corporate income tax.
(Note that in Quebec, 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 Quebec.)
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. See the complete list of other accounts (Canada Revenue Agency).
Not every business needs 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.
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.
To get a Business Number, you can contact the Canada Revenue Agency by phone at 1-800-959-5525, mail or fax, or register for a Business Number online.
If you choose to register by mail or fax, you will have to fill out Form RC1, Request for a Business Number (BN).
The Canada Revenue Agency has forged partnerships involving the Business Number with the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Manitoba, making the Business Number 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 and 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.
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