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Ontario Business Number: What Is It and How To Get One?

As a new entrepreneur, we know you have a long to-do list and are excited to start building your business. However, it’s important you take care of the legal stuff too. For Ontario business owners, one of these steps is getting your business number (BN)

We’ll go over why this number is important, how to determine if you need one for your business, and how you can quickly and easily register for a BN in Ontario.

What is a business number (BN)?

The nine-digit business number is a unique program account identifier associated only with your business. It streamlines how your business deals with the federal government of Canada and gives entrepreneurs access to important government program accounts, such as payroll. 

Your Ontario business number is issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), rather than by a provincial body. 

Is a business number the same as an Ontario Business Identification Number (BIN)?

A business number is not the same thing as your Business Identification Number (BIN). When you register your business name and obtain a Business Name Registration (previously called an Ontario Master Business License), you are assigned a nine-digit BIN number that is used by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services to identify provincial business accounts.

 You will typically refer to your BIN number when communicating with the provincial government about your business.

Is a BN the same as an HST number?

A CRA business number and an HST number contain the same digits, but they end differently and serve different purposes. A business number is nine digits, whereas an HST number is the same nine digits followed by RT 0001.

When does a business need a BN?

A business needs a BN when they incorporate or when they need to register for any CRA program accounts. The most common CRA program accounts that your business may require are:

  • GST/HST, if your business collects and remits GST or HST
  • Payroll deductions, if your business has any employees
  • Corporate tax income, if your business is incorporated
  • Import/Export, if you import goods or export goods or services through your business

Even sole proprietors who don’t have employees will probably need a BN, as all businesses with revenues exceeding $30,000 per calendar year are required to charge tax and remit it to the government. To do this, your business will require a BN.

When does an individual need a business number?

While BNs are usually associated with businesses, there are some cases where individuals need BNs too, even if they don’t consider themselves business owners. The most common case is when individuals hire employees, such as a nanny or personal assistant. For these employees to be placed on payroll, an individual needs a business number to access the government’s payroll accounts program.

Business numbers and provincial programs

For Ontario businesses, BNs are typically used for the federal CRA programs we outlined: GST/HST, payroll accounts, corporate tax income, and import/export accounts. However, the Ontario Ministry of Labour also uses BNs as identifiers for Ontario companies. This means that you can use your BN to identify your business when communicating with the Ministry of Labour.

Benefits of registering for a business number

Registering for a BN gives you access to CRA government programs that enable you to engage in all kinds of business activity—from hiring employees to selling your products or services outside of Canada.

Another benefit is that it streamlines all these programs under one business number. Instead of having to keep track of a bunch of different account numbers, all of your CRA accounts will be associated with your BN. 

Each CRA program has a two-letter program identifier code associated with it, and your unique number for each program will comprise your BN and this code. For example, the program code for the GST/HST program is “RT”. Your GST/HST number will just be your 9 digit BN, followed by RT and a 4-digit reference number (usually 0001).

Business number example and format

A business number is nine digits, and the same number is used in the company’s other CRA numbers with different suffixes.

Sample business number: 123456789

Sample GST/HST number: 123456789 RT 0001

Sample payroll deductions number: 123456789 RP 0002

There are a number of other account numbers which also utilize the BN with an accompanying suffix, including fuel charge (CT), excise duty (RD), excise tax and special levies (RE), air travelers security charge (RG), and insurance premium tax (RN).

How do I find my BN in Ontario

You can find your business number (or check whether you have one if you’re unsure) by logging into your CRA My Business Account. You can create or login to a CRA account using either a user ID and personal access code or by using one of their many sign in partners, which include banks and credit unions. 

How to register for a BN in Ontario

The easiest way to register for a business number in Ontario is to use the CRA’s Business Registration Online (BRO) service. If you prefer, you can also complete an RC1 form and mail or fax it to your nearest tax services office. To register for a BN by phone, call 1-800-959-5525.

In order to complete a BN application online, you’ll need to provide the following personal and business information:

  • Social insurance number (SIN)
  • Last name
  • Date of birth
  • Postal code of residential address 
  • Registered business name
  • Type of business (e.g. sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, trust)
  • Name and SIN of owners
  • Phone number
  • Physical address
  • Mailing address (if different from physical address)
  • Description of your major business activity 

Click on “register” and follow the prompts. 

Registering is easy and straightforward, and opens up important possibilities for your business, such as the ability to hire employees. It’s an important item to check off on your entrepreneur to-do list.

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