Do you need a business number or a program account?

Not all businesses need a business number (BN) and program accounts. You only need a BN if you need a program account.

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

If you already have a BN and you 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.

What is a program account?

A program account is what your business will use to deal with the government. The federal, provincial, and municipal governments have various programs a business may need to register for. For example, a business that has employees will need to participate in the payroll deductions program.

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

  • program account
  • business number

For example, your business has employees and needs to register for the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST). This means your business will need a payroll program account and a GST/HST program account. It also means your business will receive a BN.

You may have several program accounts, but you will always have only one BN. If you do not need a program account, you do not need a BN. See the following examples to find out if you need to register.

Example 1

Example 1: You do not need to register

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.

Example 2

Example 2: You need to register

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
GST/HST program account
123456789 RT 0001
Payroll deductions
123456789 RP 0001

For information on what those numbers and letters mean, see Format of the business number and program accounts on this page.

How to find out if you need a program account?

Each program account has special rules and requirements that tell you if you need to register for them. To find out if you need one or more program account, see their links.

The most common program accounts a business may need:

A business that files information returns such as TFSA, T5, T5013 and more, may also need:

Very few businesses need other program accounts, such as:

If you determine that you need to register, go to How to register.

Format of the business number and program account

Though you can only have one business number (BN), you may have several program accounts. The BN has nine digits. When the BN is combined with a two-letter code 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


Program account number
Business Number (BN) Program Identifier Reference Number
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R P 0 0 0 2

The entire program account number has 15 characters.


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:

1. business number:
2. GST/HST program account:
123456789 RT 0001
3. 1st payroll deductions program account:
123456789 RP 0001
4. 2nd payroll deductions program account:
123456789 RP 0002

Forms and publications

Date modified: