A business number is a nine-digit number that gives businesses its own unique identifier.

Not all businesses need a BN and program accounts. You will need a BN if you need one or more CRA program accounts. A program account is what your business gets when it registers for a CRA program.

In most cases, you register for a program account to participate in a program. In the case of CRA, you may need to participate in a program to meet your tax obligations.

The most common CRA program accounts a business will need are:

  • GST/HST (RT)
  • Payroll deductions (RP)
  • Corporation income tax (RC)
  • Import-export (RM)

You may need more CRA program accounts as your business grows and changes, but you only need one BN for your business.

When a business registers for one of the programs, they get a:

  • business number (if it does not already have one)
  • CRA program account

When you need CRA program accounts

You need a CRA program account to meet some tax obligations and receive certain benefits, refunds, rebates and so on. See the following examples to give you an idea if you need to register for CRA program accounts.

Example 1: You do not need to register for CRA program accounts

Elizabeth starts a new business. She does not want to hire employees. After doing research, she finds out she does not need to register for GST/HST.

Since she does not have any employees and does not need to register for GST/HST, she does not need a payroll deductions or a GST/HST program account, or a business number for tax purposes.

Example 2: You need to register for CRA program accounts

Elizabeth’s business has grown and she now needs to register for GST/HST. This means she will have to register for a GST/HST program account. She will also receive a business number (BN).

After another year of operation, Elizabeth determines she needs to hire employees. This means she will need to register for a payroll deductions program account. Since she already has a BN, she will not receive another BN. She will get a payroll deductions program account attached to her existing BN.

Elizabeth’s business now has:

  • Business number: 123456789
  • GST/HST program account: 123456789 RT 0001
  • Payroll deductions: 123456789 RP 0001

The format of the business number and CRA program account

You can only have one business number (BN), but you may have several program accounts. The BN has nine digits. When the BN is combined with a two-lettercode and a four-digit reference number, it is called a program account number. It has three parts:

  • the nine-digit BN to identify the business
  • a two-letter code to identify the program
  • a four-digit reference number to identify each account in a program a business may have

Example: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R P 0 0 0 2

  • Business Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
  • Program identifier: R P
  • Reference Number: 0 0 0 2


In this example, Business X wants to register for a BN with the CRA, a GST/HST program account, and two payroll deductions program accounts. The business is considered a sole proprietorship so it does not need a corporation income tax program account. Once registered, the business will receive a:

  • business number: 123456789
  • GST/HST program account: 123456789 RT 0001
  • 1st payroll deductions program account: 123456789 RP 0001
  • 2nd payroll deductions program account: 123456789 RP 0002

Do you need a business number or a CRA program account?

It is important to know what a business number (BN) and what program accounts are to know if you need them. Generally, you need them for doing business with the federal, provincial, and municipal governments in Canada.

Not all businesses need a BN and program accounts. For example, if you do not need a CRA program account, you do not need a BN for tax purposes.

However, you might need a BN to interact with other federal programs. The BN is gradually becoming the standard identifier for all federal business programs.

If you already know that you need a BN or CRA program accounts and want to register online using Business Registration Online (BRO), go to Register now.

If you already have a BN and you want to change the legal ownership or the structure of your business, you may have to register for a new BN. For more information, go to Changing your business status.

How to find out if you need CRA program accounts

Each CRA program account has special rules and requirements that tell you if you need to register for them. If you do not already have a BN, you will get a BN when you register for a CRA program account. Some examples are if you:

  • run an organization such as a club or a charity
  • need to register for the GST/HST or claim a rebate
  • need to open a payroll deductions program account
  • are a trustee or an administrator of a registered retirement savings plan or a registered retirement income fund

To find out if you need one or more CRA program accounts, see their links in the following sections.

The most common program accounts a business may need are: