The Ultimate Guide to Set Up and Maintain Your CRA Account in Canada

By Emma Martin | Published on 02 May 2023

CRA account

Setting up a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) account provides taxpayers a secure, digital portal to manage their tax- and benefit-related account information. Whether for an individual registering for a My Account, or a company setting up a My Business Account, taxpayers can use the CRA service channel to manage tax-related affairs digitally. 

Why do I need an Individual CRA My Account?

A CRA account offers 21-hour access to income tax and benefit payment information sevens days a week. Taxpayers gain easy access to income tax refunds or payments.

My Account users gain digital access to past and current income tax returns, notices of assessments, and proof of income (POI) documents. Users also have the ability to view benefit payment schedules and maintain direct deposit banking information.

Income tax

One of the CRA’s jobs is to collect taxes. Whether you prepare your taxes yourself or use a paid software like TurboTax or H&R Block, mistakes happen. Having a CRA account can help sort things out quickly. It should be part of your strategy to pay less incomes taxes.

The Canada Revenue Agency income tax portal offers taxpayers an online tool to administer all things income tax-related. Taxpayer benefits include monitoring income tax refunds and remittances, Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) status, and Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) statements including RRSP-related Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) and Lifelong Learning Plan sub-accounts.

Benefit payments

Similar to income tax, CRA account users can monitor and administer their benefit account online. This makes it much easier to change account details like an address change, a bank account switch, and direct deposit information.

Rhe most popular feature is tracking monthly and quarterly federal government benefit payments. Such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), GST/HST refunds, and the new Climate Action Incentive (CAI) program. Provincial benefit payment schedules, like the Ontario Trillium Benefit, are also available.

Solve CRA problems 

Users can address Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) issues and payment discrepancies. Users can also submit requests for CPP and EI rulings, send documents securely, and resolve income tax issues.

Additionally, users can maintain personal and banking information. CRA mobile app notifications can also help to prevent future tax and CRA payment problems.

CRA mobile apps

Mobile apps are only accessible by taxpayers with an online CRA account. The MyCRA mobile app is used for income and other tax issues.

The MyBenefits mobile app is used to manage and track benefit payments and schedules. Cookies are available to fast-track future sign-ins from the same device.

CRA My Account registration guide

What you’ll need

The document is a fairly standard personal information registration form, but be sure to have your social insurance number available. You need at least one copy of a recent income tax return to enter a specified line number as part of the security verification process.

Setting up a CRA account for individuals

You will need to enter your social insurance number (SIN) to access the registration portal and create a unique user ID and password for your CRA account.

validate your identity

Once the account is verified, individuals can approve and set up 3rd party access for professional advisors. Individuals typically appoint tax accountants, lawyers, power of attorney holders, or trusted advisors that manage their financial affairs.

A prompt allows you to select whether you prefer a text or phone call for the multi-factor authentication process. There you will create your personalized security questions and answers as part of security validation for future sign-ins. Then, a prompt will ask you to accept or refuse cookies that can fast-track future CRA account sign-ins.

Multi-factor authentication explained

Multi-factor authentication is a mandatory enhanced security measure that was implemented throughout the CRA sign-in services. When prompted to enroll in multi-factor authentication, users can opt for a one-time passcode or a passcode grid. The grid is similar to Captcha. 

The one-time passcode option in the multi-factor authentication requires you to enter the code when signing into CRA online services. An automated text message sends the single use passcode to the telephone number. The one-time passcode, as the name suggests, is good for a single sign-in session as described on the CRA website.

The Canada Revenue Agency describes the Passcode Grid option as a bingo card in appearance. It is a table with columns of letters and rows of numbers.

The grid must be sequenced correctly to enter the CRA account portal. Each notification contains three combinations that you can enter. It’s not a permanent choice, so it can be changed in the multi-factor authentication settings later on. 

CRA website instructional:

Moving forward with a new CRA account

Once the registration process is complete, you will receive limited access to your CRA account. The Canada Revenue Agency will mail your CRA My Account security code.

This code gives full access to all federal and provincial tax information. Simply, log in to your My Account where a prompt will ask you to enter the security code. Be aware that the security code has an expiry date after which you will have to repeat the process.

Signing into your CRA My Account

Once the security code is entered, click My Account button to choose your sign-in preference.

cra myaccount

You can opt for Sign-In Partner which connects to your financial institution, or CRA sign in where you can enter your user ID and password. You can also gain access through the Provincial Partner Sign-In portal.   

sign in partner

Direct sign-in for CRA My Account 

If you chose the direct option, click the CRA button shown above, and follow the prompts to enter your user ID and password. You may have to go through a Captcha process as part of the multi-factor authentication security check.

They offer expedited sign-in processes, such as the use of cookies or the designation of a home computer that is exempt from full authentication protocols. Your CRA dashboard will indicate the last account sign-in. If you notice anything unusual, contact the Canada Revenue Agency immediately.

If you chose the passcode grid option, you will need to enter grid coordinates when prompted to sign-in to your CRA account as described on their website. They describe the algorithm as having 25 cells formatted into a five-by-five table grid containing letters and numbers.

Each cell contains three random characters that the account user needs to enter on the CRA sign-in portal.

passcode grid

Using CRA sign-in partners

A sign-in partner is an online digital service that connects with trusted sources like banks and credit unions. CRA account holders can use their sign-in credentials from verified partners. 

Bank and credit union sign-in partners

Verified CRA account partners are banks and credit unions where you can use your online banking credentials to verify your identity. As you can see in the following screenshot, the CRA has announced that changes are in the works regarding financial institution sign-in verification within the multi-factor authentication protocol.

The federal government has branded the program Verified.Me®. Interac Corp has purchased exclusive Canadian rights to provide SecureKey digital identity verification services and will also administer the program.  

To access the My Account portal on the CRA website, select Sign-In Partner as shown below. Choose your financial institution to reach your bank sign-in screen where you may enter your bank user ID and password.

The Canada Revenue Agency accepts the financial institution’s verification of your identity, and will automatically direct you back to your CRA account dashboard.

sign in partner list

Provincial sign-in partners

At the time of writing, the Canada Revenue Agency accepts two provincial sign-in partners.

Alberta has a My Alberta Digital ID that enables access the CRA My Account portal, namely the My Service Canada Account (MSCA) program. Albertans can sign-in with their provincial digital ID credentials and be automatically verified by the Canada Revenue Agency. British Columbia’s BC Services Card digital identity is also accessible through the Provincial Partner Sign-In portal.  

There are no access restrictions, so users can monitor tax-related information like Old Age Security (OAS), Canada Pension Plan (CPP), and Employment Insurance (EI) in addition to income tax refunds. 

Losing and regaining CRA account access

Occasionally the CRA sends notifications that revoke user ID and password privileges. If your Canada Revenue Agency sign-in credentials are revoked for any reason, CRA account holders are advised to visit the CRA website for steps to regain access.

CRA My Business registration guide

A My Business CRA Account offers business owners online access to federal and provincial income, value added, and payroll tax information. Owners and assignees can then manage all tax and payroll benefit remittances from a single CRA dashboard.

Business executives can download the CRA’s mobile app to receive notifications. That can help head off potential tax and payroll benefit issues before they become a problem.

The My Business dashboard digitizes a company’s tax and benefit resolution mechanism and provides an audit trail in the event of conflict. Businesses can digitally transmit corporate tax returns and documentation, pay tax installments, submit GST/HST returns and payments, and monitor federal payroll benefits like CPP and EI.

Importers and exporters can monitor account details, receive notifications, and securely file Excise duty and Excise tax returns or refund requests. Lumber exporters can monitor and administer the Softwood Lumber Export account. Specialty accounts include insurance premium excise tax, air traveler security, registered charities, and partnership information.

How to register your business with CRA

What you will need

Most of the information required for setting up a CRA account for business is fairly standard, such as:

  • The legal business name
  • Corporate certificate number
  • Date of incorporation
  • The social insurance numbers of the business owners
  • Dates of birth and postal codes of business owners
  • Primary 9-digit Business Number identifier assigned when you registered the business name.
my business account

Your Business Number

You will need the primary 9-digit Business Number identifier assigned when you registered the business name. The number is often followed by a program identifier, for example, a two-letter code for the GST/HST program.

A 4-digit code further identifies the department within the program area, for example, remittances. Specifically, the first nine digits are required. The full number looks something like 109876543 AB0001.

 What type of business do you have?

You need to disclose the ownership type whether it’s a sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation. Registration can include one or multiple owners who can then approve access to official assignees responsible for managing the CRA account.

Typical internal assignees include Directors and Board Trustees, corporate accountants, internal auditors, and treasury analysts. External assignees, typically third-party auditors, tax lawyers, and other financial advisors, must register through the Represent-a-Client portal.

The CRA describes typical assignees as professional services specialists. Including accountants, tax advisors, external payroll administrators, and lawyers, but also mentions trustees, power of attorney holders, and family and friends, although a power of attorney assignment is likely the best way to go.

Charity and non-profit organizations have a slightly different variation on the assignee process for two reasons:

  • They have no ownership structure, but are instead governed by a board of directors who will need to legally appoint board representatives
  • They typically don’t employ staff accountants and have to use the Represent-A-Client function to assign 3rd party financial advisors to the My Business CRA account. 

options for My Business accounts

My Business Account has two sign-In options. CRA Sign-In option requires user ID and password, or passcode grid.

two business login

Choose your financial institution Sign-In Partner to be redirected.

sign in partner list

A My Account holder has fast access to past tax returns, notice of assessments, and proof-of-income statements in digital form, offering convenience over paper file systems. Taxpayers can securely upload income tax and legal documents requested by the CRA to resolve problems faster than by fax or mail.  

A digital Canada Revenue Agency My Account or My Business account simplifies income tax and benefit maintenance for taxpayers. Digital communications and document transfer capabilities with the CRA provide a legal audit trail in the event of future conflict or for the peace of mind.

CRA account set-up resources

Registering for a CRA My Account or My Business account is an easy process, but help is available just in case. On the website, the CRA describes an easy-to-use chatbot for users that need quick answers to general Canada Revenue Agency inquiries, such as how to file income tax returns. 

For more in depth information on setting up a CRA account, they advise users to check out their page with ”questions and answers about filing your taxes” on the FAQ section.

Emma Martin writes about the curiosities of finance. Her obsession with cryptocurrency keeps her writing most days about the best exchanges and wallets, and the wild world of NFTs. Her favourite exchange right now is Bitbuy. Emma also invests in the stock market using Wealthsimple Trade.