Retroactive changes to Saskatchewan PST applies to out-of-province online businesses

September 24, 2020 | Colleen Ma

Saskatchewan imposes a 6% provincial sales tax (PST) on the retail sale or lease of most tangible personal property and taxable services (which includes software) consumed or used in the province. Where a sale of goods occurs in a brick-and-mortar store located in Saskatchewan, it is relatively straightforward to assess whether PST is applicable. However, determining whether PST is applicable when it comes to online retail and e‑commerce can be more complicated. Further, assessing whether an out‑of‑province business has an obligation to register for, and collect and remit PST can be challenging. Recent amendments to The Provincial Sales Tax Act (Saskatchewan) (the “SK PST Act”), effective retroactive to January 1, 2020, arguably increase the complexity of the PST regime in Saskatchewan.

Generally, a “vendor” is required to be licensed for the purpose of collecting and remitting Saskatchewan PST. Currently , a “vendor” includes a person who does not otherwise carry on business in Saskatchewan if the tangible personal property or the taxable service is acquired for use or consumption in or relating to Saskatchewan. The application of this provision can be quite broad, particularly  relative to the federal GST/HST and other provincial sales tax legislation, and can catch out‑of‑province businesses by surprise (and not the good kind).

The recently amended SK PST Act is intended to “modernize the [current legislation] and strengthen the province’s ability to ensure online retailers collect and remit provincial sales tax on sales in Saskatchewan. This in turn will help maintain a fair and level playing field for resident and non-resident businesses operating in Saskatchewan.” (Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan Debates and Proceedings, 28‑4, No 40A (18 June 2020) at 6968 (Hon. Donna Harpaur).)

The SK PST Act defines two new terms: (1) an “online marketplace facilitator” is a person that makes or facilitates a marketplace for retail sales by marketplace sellers and that collects payment from a customer or user and remits payment to a marketplace seller; and (2) an “online accommodation platform” is an electronic marketplace that enables or facilitates transactions in relation to accommodation services located in Saskatchewan.

Online marketplace facilitators and operators of an online accommodation platform are now required to register as vendors for purposes of collecting and remitting PST. Conversely, an accommodation service provider or marketplace seller, who makes retail sales exclusively by way of an online accommodation platform or a marketplace facilitator, may no longer be required to be licensed.}

In addition to “tangible personal property,” PST is applicable to the retail sale of “taxable services.” The recent amendments to the SK PST Act added the following to the list of taxable services: (1) an electronic distribution service that is delivered, streamed or accessed through an “electronic distribution platform;” and (2) an online accommodation service that is delivered or access through an online accommodation platform. PST would also be applicable to any associated or incidental services, including all transaction services, processing services and administration services. Businesses involved in these activities may now be required to register as a vendor for purposes of collecting and remitting PST.

There appears to be some uncertainty as to how the amendments to the SK PST Act will apply in certain situations. For example, who is responsible for collecting PST when both the online marketplace facilitator and the marketplace seller are registered for PST? Further, it seems curious that businesses are expected to be compliant with their obligation to register for, and collect and remit a sales tax on a retroactive basis. Hopefully the Ministry of Finance will provide clarity in these regards.

If you are concerned that these changes may affect your business, the members of the Miller Thomson LLP Sales, Commodity and Indirect Tax Group are available to address your indirect tax concerns.

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