Business number at CIPO – Frequently asked questions

1. What is the business number?

The business number (BN) is a 9-digit account number that identifies your business to federal, provincial, and municipal governments. The BN is issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

2. Where can I find my BN?

You can find your BN by logging into the CRA My Business Account.

3. Who can apply for a BN?

Any client that is required to conduct business with the CRA or any partner who has adopted the BN must register for a BN. Business registration operates under the "one legal entity, one BN" administrative policy. A business entity is assigned only one BN regardless of the number of business locations or businesses that are owned by that business entity.

A business entity is defined as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, trust, government or any other identifiable entity such as a charitable organization.

Registration for a BN is not restricted to commercial businesses. For example, a client who takes payroll deductions from their nanny would not be considered a commercial business, but still can register for a BN.

4. How does a business get a BN?

If you are a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation you can obtain a BN in real time through the Business Registration Online. You can also register for a BN by mail, fax or telephone.

For more information, visit the CRA website. Additional information is available for businesses operating in Quebec.

5. Why is the Canadian Intellectual Property Office collecting my BN?

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is collecting the BN to comply with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Directive on the Business Number that instructs federal programs serving businesses to collect the BN as the standard business identifier. It is an essential step towards more efficient business-to-government interactions.

The BN is a key enabler for the "tell us once" approach by enabling government to increase service efficiency and improve program integrity, leading to access to faster services, prepopulated forms and bundled service delivery for business.

As CIPO modernizes client-facing services, the business number field will be added to client service forms as well as intellectual property granting and registering forms.

6. What are the benefits for business?

Currently, businesses must repeat the same identification information when registering to programs. Businesses must manage multiple identifiers and contact programs separately to update their information.

Once fully implemented, the BN will make it easier for businesses to communicate with provincial or federal departments about their accounts. The BN simplifies business-to-government interaction, as business owners will eventually be recognized across various government program areas by their business number.

7. What other government departments collect BNs?

All federal departments serving businesses are expected to use the BN as the business standard identifier under the Directive on the Business Number. The BN is being used by 8 provinces and even at the municipal level, with the City of Winnipeg.

Sectors within the Department of Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada, such as Corporations Canada, Measurement Canada, the Competition Bureau and CIPO have all adopted the BN.

8. Am I required to have a BN to access CIPO services?

No. Providing the BN is voluntary. However, if you have a BN, we highly recommend that you provide it when interacting with CIPO.