Sales Taxes

Do I Have to Collect HST?

Paul Sharpe, CPA, CA
December 4, 2018

Affiliate disclosure

Let’s talk about HST collection! If you’ve started a business or are self-employed, you may have to collect HST on your sales. This article will quickly explain what HST is and will help you determine whether you need to collect it.

Do I Have to Charge HST?

Let’s talk about HST collection! If you’ve started a business or are self-employed, you may have to collect HST on your sales. This article will quickly explain what HST is and will help you determine whether you need to collect it.

Topics Covered:

  1. What is HST?
  2. When should you collect HST?
  3. How to register for HST
  4. How HST works
  5. How to file an HST return

Quick note: GST and HST are generally treated the same in terms of when to collect, how to register, how it works and how to file a return.

What is HST?

Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is a consumer tax resulting from the combination of the Canadian federal goods and services tax (GST) and provincial sales tax (PST). Not all provinces are participating, so depending on your province you may have GST and PST instead. Provinces participating in HST and their applicable rates (as of 2018) include:

  • New-Brunswick 15%
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 15%
  • Nova Scotia 15%
  • Ontario 13%
  • Prince Edward Island 15%

When Should You Collect HST?

The short answer is collect HST when you have taxable sales greater than $30,000 in a year.

A bit more explanation is required to clarify things because we don’t yet know what taxable sales are, and the $30,000 in a year calculation is not perfectly straight-forward.

Sales Greater Than $30,000 in a Year

The year in question is actually a running calculation of the prior 4 quarters. The above statement is more accurate as: you should begin collecting HST when your taxable sales over the previous consecutive 4 quarters exceed $30,000. Let’s look at an example to help:

  • Taxable sales from July to September $5,000
  • Taxable sales from October to December $5,000
  • Taxable sales from January to March $10,000
  • Taxable sales from April to June $10,000

In this example, it’s now July 1st and you’ve had total taxable sales of $30,000 over the previous four consecutive quarters. You should now register for and charge HST on your next sale.

What Are Taxable Sales?

What are taxable sales you might ask? It is probably easier to ask what types of sales are not taxable. CRA provides a helpful list of taxable and exempt sales on their GST/HST Guide. Here are some common examples so you hopefully don’t have to go digging through CRA’s complicated but thorough explanations:

Examples of Common Taxable Sales Include:

  • Most sales of retail goods
  • Professional services such as accounting, legal, advertising, software development etc.
  • Meals and / or drinks sold in a restaurant
  • Commercial rent (renting real estate to businesses)

Some Common Sales That Aren’t Taxable Include:

  • Long term residential rental
  • Sales of insurance policies
  • Most services provided by financial institutions (lending / banking)
  • Most services provided by charities

Zero Rated Sales

There are also types of sales that are considered taxable, but are taxable at 0%. They’re called Zero-rated sales. Seems a bit odd, but the idea is that you don’t collect tax on these sales, but you are still eligible to claim input tax credits on your HST return (more info on Input tax credits below). The two most common Zero-rated sales are:

  • Basic groceries such as milk, bread, and vegetables
  • Taxable supplies made to entities located outside of Canada

If you have taxable sales greater than $30,000 over the last four quarters, then you should register for and begin collecting HST.

In some cases, it could be beneficial to register for and charge HST even before you reach the $30k threshold. Early in your business you will likely be spending more money than you are making, and by registering for and charging HST, you get a couple of benefits:

1. You collect HST and don’t have to remit it for a while, which is good for cash flow.

2. You get back any HST that you spend. These are called Input Tax Credits. (more on these below).

How to Register for HST

It’s pretty easy to register. CRA has done a good job at making this process seamless with their Business Registration Online (BRO) program. You can start your BRO journey by clicking this link here. Make sure you have all of the information they are going to ask for (listed here) and follow the steps. There are buttons at the bottom of each page to take you to the next or previous step.

How HST Works

Businesses collect HST on taxable sales. They also pay HST on goods and services that they purchase. HST paid on a purchases is called an “input tax credit” or ITC for short.

The business must pay the government the HST that it collects on sales, but it is allowed to deduct any ITCs from this and pay the difference. Here are two basic examples to help explain how it works:

Collect More HST Than Paid (Balance Owing)

  • The Quick-E-Mart collects $5,000 in HST on its sales in a year
  • The Quick-E-Mart also pays $1,000 of HST on purchases in that year
  • The Quick-E-Mart must pay the difference of $4,000 to the Receiver General (Canadian government)

More HST Paid Than HST Collected (Refund)

  • Moe’s Bar collects $2,000 in HST on its sales in a year
  • Moe’s Bar pays $3,000 in HST on purchases in that year
  • Moe’s Bar will get a refund for the difference of $1,000 when it files its HST return

You might now see why it’s sometimes better to register for HST before it is absolutely required. In the beginning when you have more expenses than sales, you will likely be in a refund position on your HST return.

How to File an HST Return

There can be many complications when preparing and filing a HST return. Today we will be covering the basics which should be useful for most businesses. You can also check out CRA’s guide to completing a GST/HST return if you need more detail.

The Easiest Methods of Filing an HST Return:

Follow the steps provided in one of the three filing methods above and you will arrive at the actual GST/HST return. Here is how to fill that out.

The Return

  • Line 101 Sales and other revenue - enter the total value of taxable sales made during the reporting period. Don’t include GST, HST or PST in this amount.
  • Line 105 GST/HST and adjustments for the period - enter the total value of GST and HST collected during the reporting period.
  • Line 108 Total ITCs and adjustments - enter the total GST and HST paid on purchases during the reporting period. Note: ITCs that were paid on meals and entertainment expenses are only 50% deductible, so you may have to reduce your ITC claim accordingly.
  • Line 109 Net Tax - Line 105 minus Line 108 will give you either a positive balance which means there is an amount owing or a negative balance which means you have a refund.

Once you’ve entered all of this information, submit the return and pay the amount owing (methods to pay) or await your refund.

Hopefully your GST/HST return will be straightforward and you’ll be able to follow these instructions and get your return filed.

If you come across something that doesn’t seem to make sense or is outside of the basics, send Paul a quick note and he should be able to help out!

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Thanks for reading!
Article by
Paul Sharpe, CPA, CA
Originally published
December 4, 2018
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