Why Do I Need a Business Number for Importing?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

inventory-shelvesYou’ve heard so much about all these people buying stuff in China from Alibaba, and making some money on the side or starting a new business. What you may not realize is that you need an Import-Export account business number in order to do so. You need this account even if you don’t think your sales will be over $30,000. Now, if you’re just buying stuff for yourself then you don’t need to register. We won’t get into how to import goods into Canada in this post.

Before importing commercial goods into Canada, as a business or an individual, you will need to obtain a Business Number (BN) issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for an import/export account. This import/export account is free of charge and can usually be obtained in a matter of minutes.

CRA will use your import-export program account number to process customs documents. To avoid delays in releasing your goods at the border, open your program account before you import or export goods.

You can phone CRA, or apply online, or fill out a form RC1C Business Number – Import-Export Program Account Information, and mail/fax it to your tax centre. This number is how CRA and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) identifies you as the importer of the goods, and they can keep track of what is coming into the country by you.

When you fill in Form RC1, Request for a Business Number, include all your business’s names that may appear on customs release forms and documents, such as invoices. If the name on the customs release document is different from the name we have on file, your goods may be held up at the border.

Once you are assigned the number it will end with RM0001. If you have more than one branch or division, then you need an account for each branch or division. This account is separate from your GST/HST, payroll, or corporate accounts, however, if you already have one or more of these, then it will be the same nine digits followed by the RM0001 classification.

You may have more obligations when importing or exporting goods or services:

  • reporting your shipments
  • accounting for your goods
  • paying taxes
  • paying duty

Whether you have big plans for your import business, or just want to make some extra cash, you need to think about how much you’re importing into Canada, and register for that import-export business number before you actually do bring goods into Canada. Canada Border Services Agency can levy hefty fines for those not in compliance with the rules.

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