As customs brokers, Clearit receives requests every day to clear goods at every border point across Canada.

When we work with a commercial importer, we need a Canadian Business Number (BN) — we sometimes need it when we’re working with a personal importer, too. Your import number in Canada will come from your BN.

Depending on what you’re importing, we may need even more numbers from you — like your ITN number for the United States’ Automated Export System (AES).

To avoid any confusion in the process, you should get to know what numbers you’ll need when importing and when.

Do I Need an Import Number in Canada?

Commercial importers need a Canadian Business Number (BN) to import and export goods. Your BN is your import number, so long as you have the right account attached to it.

A BN has 15 digits: 9 numbers to identify the company, two letters to identify the particular program, and four numbers to identify the specific account.

When you receive a BN, you can register for five accounts under that number:

  • RT: your GST/HST account
  • RP: your payroll account
  • RC: your corporate income tax account
  • RZ: your information return account
  • RM: your import/export account. This is the account most relevant to Clearit’s clients.

To obtain your BN or to add an extra account to your existing BN, fill out an RC1 form. You shouldn’t undertake any commercial or large-scale importing or exporting until you get your business number and RM account.

It’s free to add an import number for Canada to your BN. You need that import number for your goods to be released at the border, so it’s a smart idea to register before you even begin the process of importing anything.

Do I ever need a Business Number in Canada as a Personal Importer?


On paper, the Canada Border Services Agency only requires a BN and an import/export account for commercial shipments. However, CBSA’s definition of commercial includes anything for occupational use (such as industrial machinery) and, sometimes, large volumes of personal items.

If you’re importing 500 identical t-shirts for your summer camp — as an example — you’ll probably need an import/export account.

How do I get an AES number?

So now you know if you need a BN for your imports — but what about any other numbers, like an AES number?

Technically, the Automated Export System is an American program, not a Canadian one. Still, AES filings are relevant to some Canadian importers, commercial or personal. When you file export information through the Automated Export System, you’ll get an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) to use on any shipping documents. To file with AES and get your ITN number, get in touch with us — Clearit provides easy AES ITN filing services just a click away.

An ITN provides you with 3 key things:

  1. Proof of filing: The AES/ITN number is your proof that the EEI has been filed (by you or your agent), as required.
  2. Verified accuracy of filing (routed export transaction): For a routed export transaction, the ITN ensures that the information that was provided is indeed accurate.
  3. Proof that you’re compliant: In many cases, the ITN is required for certain documents — without the number, you risk your shipment being held at Customs.

You’ll need an ITN whenever you’re dealing with goods over $2,500 or any self-propelled vehicles. A BN number is not necessarily required all times than an ITN is. In Canada, ITN numbers are for vehicle exports from the United States, mainly.

Whether you’re personally importing a car you bought or importing vehicles for resale, you’ll receive your ITN number after your AES filing. It’s that simple! Keep your AES ITN on hand for customs.