The GST/HST (Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax) are sales taxes that Canadian businesses must collect and remit to the government. With some exceptions, all businesses are responsible for paying applicable taxes at the federal and provincial level in the form of the Federal GST (Goods and Services Tax) and the Harmonized Sales Tax. In order to account for and remit these taxes, you must register your business for a GST/HST account.
Certain products and services are exempt from these taxes. Livestock and feminine hygiene products are both exceptions, for example, along with services like residential housing, health care and dentistry, certain child care services, and many educational services. Businesses don’t have to charge sales tax on these items or remit them to the Canadian government via the GST/HST Registry. Also, “small suppliers,” or those that earn less than $30,000 in a calendar quarter or over the last four consecutive calendar quarters.
Non-resident businesses without a permanent establishment and that don’t engage in any business in Canada don’t have to register for or pay this tax. Also, certain groups of people are exempt from being charged GST/HST, such as Indigenous peoples, and provincial and territorial governments.
How do you register for the GST/HST?
Once you determine you must start collecting and remitting this sales tax, you can begin the registration process on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.
Before you start the process of registering for a GST/HST account, you need to have some information handy:
Effective date of registration
Your effective date of registration is usually the day you stop being a small supplier. It could also be an earlier date.
Your fiscal year
Typically your fiscal business year for the GST/HST is the same as your tax year for income tax purposes. Generally, the tax year for the following “persons” is a calendar year:
- Individuals and certain trusts
- Professional corporations that are members of a partnership (such as a corporation that is the professional practice of an accountant, a lawyer, or a doctor)
- Partnerships, where at least one member of the partnership is an individual, a professional corporation, or another affected partnership
Some persons use non-calendar tax years. If this is the case, you may choose the same year as your GST/HST fiscal year. Corporations use the same fiscal year for both income tax purposes and GST/HST purposes. However, if a corporation has a non-calendar tax year for income tax purposes, it can use a calendar year for its GST/HST fiscal year.
Total annual revenue
To calculate your total annual revenue, include revenues from your taxable sales, leases, and other supplies, including zero-rated supplies (0% tax rate) as well as taxable supplies of all your associates. If you are a new business without revenues, you can give the CRA an estimate of your income for the year.
You’ll need to provide personal information:
- Social insurance number (SIN)
- Date of birth
- Personal postal code (where you live)
You’ll need to provide your business information:
- Business name
- Business number* (if the business already has one)
- Type of business or organization (such as sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, registered charity)
- Name and SIN of all owners
- Physical address
- Mailing address (if different from the physical address)
- Description of major business activity
*Note: It’s important to know that your GST/HST account number is part of a business number (BN). If you don’t have a BN yet, you will receive one when registering for your GST/HST account.
Ways to register for your GST/HST account
The CRA allows you to register in a few different ways:
- By mail or by fax
- By telephone
What do you do after confirming your GST/HST account number?
You will receive a GST/HST account number to confirm that your registration is complete. You can access this number on the “My Business Account“ section of the CRA website. In your account, you can manage your program accounts online and see your GST/HST information.
Once you receive your number, you’re required to start remitting the sales tax you collect to the Canadian government.
Charge and collect the GST/HST
In essence, the tax rate to charge depends on the place of supply or where you make your sale, lease, or other supply. The rate for other taxable supplies depends on the province or territory. The current rates are:
- 5% (GST) in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon
- 13% (HST) in Ontario
- 15% (HST) in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island
The rules around charging and collecting sales tax can get somewhat complicated, especially if you do business and make sales across several provinces and territories in Canada. If possible, use accounting software or the help of a financial professional to ensure you are in compliance with the requirements for federal sales taxes.
Complete and file a GST/HST return
The personalized GST/HST return (Form GST34-2) has your filing due date at the top of the form. The due date of your return is determined by your reporting period.
The CRA will charge penalties and interest on monies not paid and returns not filed by the due date. Even if you don’t have any business transactions or taxes to pay, you must still file a GST/HST return.
Remit sales tax
Your payment is due at the same time as your GST/HST returns.
Why should I register for the GST/HST?
If you sell products and services in Canada, it’s something that you cannot avoid. If you’ve reached the revenue threshold and don’t remit the applicable sales tax, you could face financial penalties.
One part of financial health includes remaining solvent to the best of your ability—which includes paying your tax obligations on time and as agreed. Taxes are one of those liabilities that can negatively impact your business if not handled properly.
Registering for the GST/HST, charging, collecting, filing and remitting sales tax will ensure you are following the law and setting yourself up for financial success on both a personal and business level.