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Business Numbers: Learning the Basics

As a small business, we understand that navigating all the ins and outs of registration requirements can be confusing. In this post, we will go over why you need a business number.

What is a business number?

A business number identifies your business to federal, provincial and municipal governments. This number allows you to enroll in programs with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). In addition, each program will result in a different sub-account of the business number. These programs include:

  • Payroll,
  • GST/HST,
  • Import/export
  • Corporate reporting.

So how do you tell the difference between this number and a business license number or provincial business identification number? You can easily identify federal business numbers as they start with a 1, 7 or an 8 and are nine digits long.

Also, a federal business number is a requirement for creating a Chit Chats returns account.

What if I need to Import/Export Goods?

The business number is the master number used for Canadian business activity. However, if your business imports commercial goods you must register for the CRA’s import/export program. Registering creates a new sub-account identified by a number beginning with RM. Your business number for importing will include the sub-account number. For example:

  • Business number: 888888888
  • Importer sub-account number: RM0001
  • Business number for importing: 888888888RM0001

How to register for a business number with the Government of Canada

So how do you get a federal business number? It’s as simple as going online or making a phone call to the CRA at 1-800-959-5525. Before you call, go through our checklist to make sure you have everything you need:

  • Be ready to answer a few questions about your business
  • Have your SIN number and other identification ready
  • On average it takes 5-10 minutes to complete the call. Find live wait times on the CRA’s website

We hope this post answers all your questions about how to register and use business numbers. If you need more help, please contact the CRA and for more business resources check out our other business tips.

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