Business Numbers & HST Registration
1. What is a Business Number (BN)?
A business number (BN) is a nine-digit number that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will assign to a business for tax matters related to business in Canada. The BN is based on the idea that each organization has one number. The primary accounts covered by the BN include:
a) goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST);
c) import/export; and
d) corporation income tax.
2. What is the significance of the parts of the BN?
The BN is a nine-digit business identifier. The program account number consists of three parts—the BN, a two letter program identifier and a four digit reference number. The entire program account number has 15 characters:
a) nine digit BN to identify the business;
b) two letters to identify the type of account (RC is for income tax, RT is for GST/HST, RP is for Payroll and RM is for Import/Export) and
c) four digits to identify each account a business may have (e.g. typically, 0001).
3. How do I get a BN?
You can register for a BN and your CRA program accounts in any of the following four ways:
a) by Internet (Business Registration Online);
b) by telephone at 1-800-959-5525;
c) by mail; or
d) by fax.
4. Do I have to register for GST/HST?
For most businesses, the determining factor in deciding whether you have to register is determining your worldwide revenues (and those of your associates) from taxable goods and services were more than $30,000 in your last four consecutive calendar quarters or in any calendar quarter.
5. Should I Register? Or, Do I Have a Choice?
You have to register for the GST/HST if, among other reasons, you provide taxable (including zero-rated) goods or services in Canada in the course of carrying on commercial activity in Canada and you are not a small supplier;
6. What is a Small Supplier?
You are a small supplier if you meet one of the following conditions:
a. you are a sole proprietor, and your total revenues from taxable supplies (before expenses) from all your businesses are $30,000 or less in the last four consecutive calendar quarters or in any single calendar quarter;
b. you are a partnership or a corporation, and your total revenues from taxable supplies (before expenses) are $30,000 or less in the last four consecutive calendar quarters or in any single calendar quarter; or
c. you are a public service body, and your total revenues from taxable supplies from all of the activities of the organization are $50,000 or less in the last four consecutive calendar quarters. A gross revenue threshold applies to charities and public institutions. For more information, see Guide RC4082, GST/HST Information for Charities.
7. Why would I register if I don’t have to?
Despite being a small supplier, if you make taxable supplies of goods and services, you can register voluntarily since you want to claim input tax credits to recover the GST/HST you pay or owe on your business purchases.
If you decide to register voluntarily, you have to charge, collect, and remit GST/HST on your sales of goods and services that are taxable at 5%, 12%, 13% or 15%. You will also have to file GST/HST returns regularly.
Note: If you decide to register voluntarily, you have to stay registered for at least one year before you can cancel your registration (unless you decide to close your business or you stop your commercial activities).
8. Are there advantages NOT to register?
Assuming that you have the option NOT to register (i..e. you are a small supplier), you may decide not to bother registering and recovering HST on your inputs merely to save the administrative burden associated with filing regular HST returns or because some of your customers may be individuals who would not be able to recover the HST and by not charging it, you are at a competitive advantage, price-wise.
9. Do I have a choice on how frequently I file my HST returns?
Some businesses do not have the choice with respect to how frequently tthey file their HST returns (see chart below). But, if you do have the choice, you will either be assigned a filing frequency by CRA or you can elect to file more frequently (by calling 1-800-959-5525) than what you would otherwise be assigned. Some businesses prefer the predictable routine of the monthly filing process even if they are not required to file so frequently.
Assigned reporting periods and options available
Annual taxable sales Assigned reporting period Options
More than $6,000,000 Monthly No option
More than $1,500,000 up to $6,000,000 Quarterly Monthly
$1,500,000 or less Annual Monthly or quarterly
10. Can I access my Business Number account activity on-line?
You can access your business number program account information online through My Business Account, and use a wide range of services. My Business Account is a secure and convenient way to access and manage your business accounts online.
i. view your account balance and transactions
ii. request additional remittance vouchers
iii. file your return and view its status
iv. calculate your instalment payments
v. view notices, letters, and statements
vi. view address and banking information
vii. transfer payments and immediately view an updated balance