Sales Taxes

1. FEDERAL GOODS AND SERVICES TAX 

The Goods and Services Tax (“GST”) imposed by the federal government is a 5% value-added tax on the supply of most goods and services in Canada. As discussed in greater detail in the Customs and International Trade section below, GST may also apply when importing taxable goods and services into Canada. 

Under the Excise Tax Act (Canada) (“ETA”), GST is payable by the recipient of a taxable supply of goods or services made in Canada. Generally, a supplier of such goods or services is required to register for, collect and remit, the applicable GST to the CRA. However, the supplier is eligible to claim input tax credits (“ITCs”) in respect of goods or services imported or acquired for use in the course of the supplier’s commercial activities. As a result, GST is ultimately imposed only on the end user that is not eligible to claim ITCs. 

A non-resident will be required to register for GST if the non-resident is “carrying on business in Canada” (e.g., a non-resident carrying on business in Canada through a Canadian branch). The non-resident will need to review its activities in Canada to determine whether it is carrying on business in Canada for the purposes of the ETA. Generally, a non-resident person must post security as a condition of GST registration. However, a non-resident person that has a permanent establishment in Canada is permitted to register for GST without posting security. A “permanent establishment” is defined as a “fixed place of business through which the person makes supplies”. This includes a place of management, a branch, an office, a factory or a workshop, a mine, an oil or gas well, a quarry, timberland or any other place of extraction of natural resources. If the non-resident does not carry on business in Canada, the non-resident may still register for GST on a voluntary basis in order to claim ITCs. 

If a Canadian business is carried on through a Canadian subsidiary, the subsidiary would be required to register for GST purposes and collect and remit GST. There is no requirement for security to be posted as the subsidiary would be resident in Canada for GST purposes. 

Since July 1, 2021, non-resident suppliers not carrying business in Canada may nonetheless have to register for, collect and remit the GST to the CRA on e-commerce sales. This new regime essentially applies to suppliers such as distribution platform operators, accommodation platform operators (e.g., Airbnb) and non-resident suppliers of certain tangible or intangible personal property and services made to Canadian consumers. Contrary to suppliers registered under the regular rules above-mentioned, those registered under the simplified GST registration are not eligible to claim ITCs. 

2. HARMONIZED SALES TAX 

Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island (the “Participating Provinces”) have harmonized their provincial retail sales taxes with the federal GST. The combined federal-provincial value-added tax is called the Harmonized Sales Tax (“HST”). The rate will vary depending on the province and the specific place of supply rules. Similar to the GST, ITCs are available for HST paid in the course of the supplier’s commercial activities. It is to be noted that, the “electronic commerce” rules mentioned above also applies to HST. Thus, non-resident suppliers targeted by the new regime and generating sales in Participating Provinces will also have to collect and remit HST to the CRA on those sales. 

3. QUEBEC SALES TAX 

Effective January 1, 2013, Quebec harmonized its Quebec’s sales tax (“QST”) with the GST. The QST essentially operates in the same manner as the GST/HST. A person carrying on business and making taxable supplies of goods and services in Quebec will be required to register for, and collect and remit QST to Revenu Quebec. Similar to the federal e-commerce rules, Quebec has adopted a specified system for non-resident suppliers, which resembles the federal regime with a few differences.  

4. PROVINCIAL RETAIL SALES TAX 

British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan all impose a provincial retail sales tax (“PST”) to end users on the sale or lease of most tangible personal property and certain services. Each province provides exemptions for some goods, such as certain foods and medicine and goods purchased for resale. If a non-resident is making sales into a province with PST, the non-resident would generally be required to register with the province, and collect and remit the PST. 

Moreover, the three provinces each have their own electronic commerce rules applying to out-of-province suppliers’ not conducting business in their territories. Unlike the federal and Quebec regimes, these provinces have not created a distinct registration regime and the rules in effect are narrower. For example, Manitoba only requires non-resident businesses to register as vendors if they are “online sales platforms”, while British Columbia requires “marketplace facilitators” and providers of “online marketplace services” to register in order to collect and remit PST.   

Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon do not levy a PST and do not have a HST.