It’s simple to get a GST or HST number in Canada. You can do it over the phone, or you can do it online if you’re registered for CRA’s online My Business service. But no matter how you register, CRA is going to require you to provide some information and make decisions up front.

You could wing it. But unless you know what effect your answers are going to have on your account you can end up with a GST/HST arrangement that frustrates you. Here are the five things you should know before you register for the GST/HST.

1 – Your business number or SIN

2 – The date on which registration will begin

3 – Your expected revenue

4 – How frequently you want to file returns

5 – Your fiscal year-end

#1 – Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Business Number (BN)

This is pretty straightforward: you’ll need to know your Business Number or your social insurance number. Either one of these serves to establish the identity of the person or business opening the GST/HST account.

What if I don’t have a business number yet?

If you don’t have a business number, don’t worry about it. You’ll use your social insurance number to identify yourself and CRA will create a business number for you at the same time they open the GST/HST account. There’s no need to get one ahead of time.

#2 The Date on Which You Want Your Registration to Start

Just because you’re going through the process of registering a GST/HST account doesn’t mean the registration itself starts today, and you may not want it to.

GST/HST registrants have obligations with regard to invoicing, charging, and filing GST/HST returns, and those obligations begin on the registration start date. If your revenues have already reached the $30,000 small supplier threshold, your options for registration may be limited to a certain span, maybe within a single month or within a single quarter. On the other hand, If your revenues haven’t reached $30,000 yet, you can choose any start date you like.

Either way, if you have options it’s a good idea to pick a date that will make your internal transition simpler as you change your billing practices, invoices, and accounting or record-keeping system over. It can be easier if your registration begins on the first of a month, the beginning of a quarter, or January 1.

At Personal Tax Advisors we usually recommend January 1 as a start date, if you’re able to do it.

#3 – The Estimated Annual Revenue of Your Business

You may be surprised to be asked to predict your next year’s revenue when you register for the GST/HST. But it’s not something to get too stressed about – it doesn’t have to be perfectly accurate, as you’ll see.

CRA asks for your annual revenue because it determines how frequently you have to file GST/HST returns. GST/HST returns report the GST/HST collected and the input tax credits (ITCs) you’re claiming back, and they cover a period of time called your filing period. CRA has different frequency requirements set for different revenue levels. Whatever your revenue, there’s a minimum filing frequency associated with it. You can choose to file more frequently than the mandated rate, but you can’t file less frequently.

Most Canadian sole proprietors can choose the least-frequent period, which is annual filing, because it’s available to any business with revenue under $1.5 million per year. For revenues of $1.5 million to $6 million, the minimum filing frequency is quarterly (every three months). Over $6 million the required filing frequency is monthly. Everyone else can file annually.

You can see that you don’t have to be too precise with this, and it’s okay if your estimate is a little too high or too low at this point. It only starts to matter when your revenues are measured in millions.

#4 Filing period, or how frequently you want to file returns

Read more: Choosing Your GST-HST Filing Period

So now you know how infrequently you can file; it’s time to decide how frequently you want to file. Remember that you can file more frequently than your required frequency. Some people who could file annually end up having to file quarterly, either because they worry about GST/HST building up in their accounts, or because they don’t express a preference and CRA sets them for quarterly filing by default.

Personal Tax Advisors recommends that non-incorporated individuals choose annual filing if their revenue permits it. This is because it simplifies the process as we can calculate both your income tax and your GST/HST remittance at once. If you’re worried about GST/HST building up, you can always send in installment payments anytime throughout the year even if you only file a return once a year. Plus, if you’re a sole proprietor rather than a partnership or a corporation, you actually get a nice perk here: annual extended filing.

Annual Extended Filing Period

Partnerships and corporations that file annually have to settle for a March 31 filing period.

But a sole proprietor with an annual EXTENDED filing period gets a later filing deadline of June 15. Not-so-coincidentally, this is the same deadline for filing a self-employed person’s income tax return. When you are a sole proprietor with an annual extended filing period you can deal with all your tax filings in a single appointment, once a year.

#5 – your Fiscal Year End

Businesses can technically use any 365-day period as their year, starting on any day of the year, e.g. April 1 – March 31. This is called the ‘fiscal year.’

If you’re a sole proprietor (i.e. not incorporated), usually the simplest thing is to use the calendar year as your fiscal year, because everything lines up: your personal income tax return (which is always based on the calendar year) and your GST/HST returns — not to mention it’s easier to keep track of in your head.

So in most cases your fiscal year end will be December 31.

If you happen to be incorporated, however, it can be easier to line up your GST/HST filing with your fiscal year, because it makes things easier for whoever is filing your returns to line up all the numbers properly.

Read more: Why You Should Register for the GST or HST Even If You Don’t Have To