Social Insurance numbers (SINs) in Canada are equivalent to Social Security numbers (SSNs) in the United States. Canadian residents use their SINs for various government programs. The Canadian government started the SIN program in 1964 to administer the Canada Pension Plan and Canada's varied employment insurance programs. However, in 1967, Revenue Canada (now the Canada Revenue Agency) began using SINs for tax reporting purposes.
Social Insurance Number
Canadian residents use their SINs for government programs and as a source of identification in the private sector. Many organizations, such as financial institutions, use SINs to create indexing for client accounts. SINs have nine digits displayed in three groups of three digits. On March 31, 2014, Service Canada stopped issuing plastic SIN cards and instead began printing the confirmation of the SIN letter on a paper.
Use of the Social Insurance Number
Canada established laws that restrict SINs for use in income reporting purposes. Canada has a limited list of federal departments and programs that can collect Canadian citizens' SINs, such as the Income and Health Care Programs, the Labour Adjustment Review Board, and the Rural and Native Housing Program.
Some private-sector companies, such as telecommunications firms and airlines, can also collect their customers' SINs. However, in general Canadian laws do not allow private companies to acquire a customer's SIN unless there is a specific and lawful purpose for doing so.
Financial institutions, such as credit unions, banks and trusts that let their customers earn investment income can also collect SINs. If certain companies deny services to a customer for not providing a SIN, the customer can file a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.