Canada Sales Tax: A Comprehensive Guide for Businesses and Consumers


Canada has a complex sales tax system that varies depending on the province or territory where business transactions occur. At its core, the system comprises of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), a value-added tax levied by the federal government, along with the Provincial Sales Taxes (PST) charged by individual provinces. Additionally, some provinces use a harmonized sales tax (HST), which is a combination of both GST and PST, while Quebec has the Quebec Sales Tax (QST).

In order to properly navigate the different formats and rates of sales taxes in Canada, it is crucial for businesses and consumers to understand the regional differences, exemptions, and special cases. The tax rates and calculation methods differ across provinces and territories, so knowing the accurate rates and exemptions for each location is essential for compliance with tax laws and regulations.

For businesses, sales tax registration and collection are key aspects of conducting commerce in Canada. It is the responsibility of businesses to register with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), collect the appropriate taxes in their transactions, and remit these collected taxes to the government. Familiarizing oneself with the filing and remittance procedures, as well as understanding the various exemptions and special cases, can help businesses operate smoothly within the Canadian tax landscape.

Key Takeaways

  • Canada’s sales tax system comprises of GST, PST, HST, and QST, with different formats and rates depending on the province or territory.
  • Businesses must register with the CRA, collect relevant taxes, and remit them to the government while being aware of exemptions and special cases.
  • Regional differences play a significant role in understanding and complying with the Canadian sales tax system.

Understanding Canada’s Sales Tax System

In Canada, the sales tax system is comprised of two main components: the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). These taxes play a crucial role in the country’s economy, and understanding their structure and implementation is important for both businesses and consumers.

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a federal value-added tax which is levied on most goods and services sold in Canada. The current GST rate is 5%, and it is uniformly applied across the country. This means that when a consumer purchases a product or service, an additional 5% is added to the price as tax.

GST is collected by the federal government and helps fund various national programs and initiatives. Businesses selling goods and services are required to register for a GST account with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and collect the tax from their customers. They then remit this tax to the government periodically, typically on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, depending on the size and type of the business.

Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)

The Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is a combined tax that merges the federal GST with provincial sales taxes (PST) in participating provinces. This tax is designed to simplify the sales tax process for businesses and consumers. The HST is currently adopted by the following provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island.

The HST rates in these provinces vary, ranging from 13% to 15%. For example, in Ontario, the HST rate is 13%, consisting of a 5% federal GST portion and an 8% provincial portion.

It’s important for businesses to be aware of the applicable tax rate in their province to accurately collect and remit the appropriate tax to the government. By understanding the nuances of Canada’s sales tax system, businesses can ensure they remain compliant with their obligations, while consumers can remain informed about the taxes they pay on their purchases.

Provincial Sales Taxes

In Canada, sales taxes differ from one province to another. While some provinces have a harmonized sales tax (HST) combining provincial and federal sales taxes, others maintain separate provincial sales taxes (PST). This section covers specific tax systems in some provinces in detail: Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Quebec Sales Tax (QST)

In Quebec, the provincial sales tax is called QST (Quebec Sales Tax). This tax is separate from the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST). The QST rate is 9.975% and is applied on top of the 5% federal GST, resulting in a total tax rate of 14.975% for taxable goods and services.

Some items such as basic groceries, prescription drugs, and medical devices are exempt from QST. Additionally, the province offers point-of-sale rebates for certain goods like books and children’s clothing.

British Columbia’s GST + PST

British Columbia employs a combination of federal GST and provincial PST. The PST rate in British Columbia is 7%, alongside the 5% federal GST, totaling a 12% combined tax rate for most goods and services.

There are multiple exemptions from PST in British Columbia, including basic groceries, prescription drugs, and children’s clothing. Some services such as transportation and professional services are subject to GST only.

Saskatchewan’s GST + PST

In Saskatchewan, the tax system involves a separate provincial sales tax in addition to the federal GST. The province levies a 6% PST, combined with the 5% federal GST for a total tax rate of 11% on most goods and services.

Several goods and services are exempt from PST in Saskatchewan. These exemptions include groceries, prescription drugs, and medical devices. Moreover, the province offers a few point-of-sale rebates for certain items like clothing and footwear.

Manitoba’s GST + RST

Manitoba imposes a provincial Retail Sales Tax (RST) instead of a PST. The RST rate is 7%, which, when combined with the federal GST rate of 5%, results in a 12% total tax rate for most goods and services.

Like other provinces, Manitoba also has several exemptions from the RST. Basic groceries, prescription drugs, and certain medical devices are exempt from the tax. Additionally, the province provides point-of-sale rebates for specific categories such as children’s clothing and footwear.

Tax Rates and Calculation

Calculating GST/HST

In Canada, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a federal sales tax applied to most transactions. The GST rate is currently 5%. In addition to the GST, some provinces also have a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which combines the GST and provincial sales tax into a single tax. To calculate the total sales tax, you can use a GST/HST calculator, which requires inputting the price of the item and selecting the province or territory where the item is being sold. Based on that information, the calculator will provide the applicable tax amount.


Item Price: $100
GST (5%): $5
HST (13% in Ontario): $13
Total Tax: $18
Total Price (including tax): $118

Provincial Sales Tax Rates

Apart from the federal GST, most provinces have their own provincial sales tax (PST) or Quebec Sales Tax (QST) in Quebec. The rates for provincial sales tax vary from province to province. Below is a table showing the current 2024 tax rates for each province:

Province GST % PST % HST % Combined Sales Tax %
Alberta 5 N/A N/A 5
British Columbia 5 7 N/A 12
Manitoba 5 8 N/A 13
New Brunswick N/A N/A 15 15
Newfoundland N/A N/A 15 15
Northwest Territories 5 N/A N/A 5
Nova Scotia N/A N/A 15 15
Nunavut 5 N/A N/A 5
Ontario N/A N/A 13 13
Prince Edward Island N/A N/A 15 15
Quebec 5 9.975 N/A 14.975
Saskatchewan 5 6 N/A 11
Yukon 5 N/A N/A 5


When calculating sales tax, remember to take into account both the GST and the provincial sales tax, as this will determine the total amount charged to the consumer. As rates may change over time, always consult current information from government sources to ensure accuracy.

Sales Tax Registration and Collection

Registering for Sales Tax

In Canada, businesses that provide taxable goods or services and exceed a gross revenue of $30,000 CAD over the previous four (or fewer) consecutive calendar quarters must register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) 1. This includes both resident and non-resident businesses operating in Canada. If a business exceeds the threshold, the effective date of registration is no later than the day of the supply that made them exceed $30,000 1.

Collecting Sales Tax

Once registered, businesses are required to collect the appropriate sales tax from their customers. For sales within Canada, there are three main types of sales taxes:

  1. GST – Goods and Services Tax is a 5% federal sales tax levied by the Canadian Government 2.
  2. PST – Provincial Sales Tax varies between provinces and is collected in addition to the GST.
  3. HST – Harmonized Sales Tax is a combination of GST and PST in some provinces, with a rate ranging from 13-15% 2.

These taxes must be collected based on the location of the buyer, and it is essential for businesses to correctly calculate the tax rate applicable to each transaction.

Businesses are responsible for accounting for the collected sales tax and must remit the appropriate amount to the government. This may be done through filing regular sales tax returns, which include details on total sales and taxes collected during the reporting period.

In summary, businesses operating in Canada with gross revenue exceeding $30,000 CAD must register for GST/HST, collect the relevant sales tax from customers, keep accurate accounts, and remit the collected taxes by filing regular sales tax returns.

Exemptions and Special Cases

In the realm of Canada’s sales tax system, certain products and services are either exempt from taxes or qualify for special tax treatment. This section will explore two essential categories: basic groceries and essentials, and medical devices and services.

Basic Groceries and Essentials

When it comes to basic groceries, they are generally exempt from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). This exemption encompasses a wide range of products, including, but not limited to:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Bread and cereals
  • Baby formula and baby food

However, while these items may be exempt from the federal component of Canada’s sales tax system, they might still be subject to Provincial Sales Tax (PST). It’s important to be aware that this exemption does not universally apply to every food and beverage, such as:

  • Snack foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Restaurant meals

Medical Devices and Services

Another area where exemptions and special cases apply is in the realm of medical devices and services. The majority of these items are considered zero-rated for GST/HST purposes and may include, but are not limited to:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Medical devices like hearing aids, wheelchairs, and prosthetics
  • Assistive devices for individuals with disabilities

It is essential to note that over-the-counter drugs and certain health services, such as cosmetic surgery, are not considered exempt.

In conclusion, when navigating Canada’s sales tax system, it is crucial to identify which items and services qualify for exemptions or special tax treatment. Understanding the nuances can ensure that you, as a buyer or seller, are accurately applying GST/HST, PST, or QST to your transactions.

Filing and Remittance

Reporting Sales Tax

In Canada, businesses are required to collect sales tax, either as Goods and Services Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Tax (PST), or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), depending on the province. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is responsible for the collection, remittance, and management of these taxes.

When it comes to reporting sales tax, businesses must keep accurate records of the taxes they’ve collected. This includes information on all taxable sales and related invoices. To facilitate this process, the CRA’s My Business Account provides a centralized platform for managing tax-related activities. It is essential for businesses to report and remit their sales tax on time to avoid penalties or interest.

The CRA requires businesses to complete a GST/HST Return form, detailing their total sales and other revenues (Line 101). They should also indicate the taxes collected (Line 103), tax adjustments (Line 104), and taxes paid or payable on eligible purchases (Line 105). The difference between Line 103 and 105 will determine whether the business has a net tax amount to remit or a refund to claim.

Using NETFILE for Filing

NETFILE is an electronic tax-filing service provided by the CRA, which allows businesses to file their GST/HST returns online. This secure and efficient method streamlines the filing process and helps to ensure accuracy and compliance.

To use the NETFILE service, businesses must:

  1. Obtain a four-digit access code, which can be found in their “GST/HST NETFILE/Telefile access code” letter or on their previously filed return.
  2. Visit the CRA’s NETFILE website and log in with their Business Number and access code.
  3. Follow the step-by-step instructions to complete and submit their GST/HST Return.

Payments of $50,000 or more must be paid electronically or at the business’s financial institution. There are three main ways to remit (pay):

  • Electronic remittance: Options include online banking, wire transfers, and pre-authorized debit through the CRA’s “My Business Account.”
  • At a financial institution in Canada: Submit payment along with the remittance voucher, obtained from CRA, at the bank.
  • By mail: Send a cheque or money order, payable to the Receiver General, to the CRA’s address, along with the remittance voucher.

In conclusion, it is crucial for businesses to maintain accurate records of their sales tax, report them timely, and remit the taxes collected to the CRA. Using NETFILE streamlines this process and ensures compliance, while various remittance methods provide convenience and ease of payment.

Understanding Regional Differences

Territorial Sales Taxes

In Canada, there are differences in sales tax rates and structures based on the region. Each province or territory has its own tax model. The three types of sales taxes include Goods and Services Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Taxes (PST), and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). The GST, at a rate of 5%, is a Value-Added Tax (VAT) applied by the federal government across the country. The PST is applied by the provinces, while the HST is a combination of both GST and PST.

The territories, which include Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon, only have the 5% GST. These regions do not apply any territorial sales tax or PST. This makes these territories particularly attractive for businesses and consumers looking for a lower tax burden.

Tax Rates by Province or Territory

To understand the variation in taxes across the provinces and territories, the following table summarizes the current rates:

Province/Territory GST PST HST Total Tax Rate
Alberta 5% 5%
British Columbia 5% 7% 12%
Manitoba 5% 7% 12%
New Brunswick 15% 15%
Newfoundland & Labrador 15% 15%
Northwest Territories 5% 5%
Nova Scotia 15% 15%
Nunavut 5% 5%
Ontario 13% 13%
Prince Edward Island 15% 15%
Quebec 5% 9.975% 14.975%
Saskatchewan 5% 6% 11%
Yukon 5% 5%

These tax rates can have a significant impact on the cost of goods and services in each region. It is important for consumers and businesses to be aware of the regional differences in sales tax rates so they can make informed decisions on where to make purchases or set up operations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the sales tax calculated in different provinces across Canada?

In Canada, sales tax rates vary across provinces. Some provinces have a combined federal and provincial sales tax called the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador are examples of provinces using HST. The HST rate in Ontario is 13%, where 5% is the federal GST and 8% is the provincial retail sales tax. Other provinces like Quebec have their separate provincial sales tax, such as Quebec Sales Tax (QST) at a rate of 9.975%.

What items are exempt from sales tax in Canada?

Certain goods and services are exempt from sales tax in Canada. These can include basic groceries, prescription drugs, medical devices, educational services, and childcare services. However, exemptions may vary between provinces and territories.

How does the sales tax in Canada compare to the Goods and Services Tax (GST)?

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a 5% federal sales tax charged by the Canadian government on taxable goods and services. In contrast, the sales tax is a broader term that includes GST, as well as provincial sales taxes, like HST and QST.

Are there any provinces in Canada that do not levy a sales tax?

Alberta is the only province in Canada that does not have a provincial sales tax. However, the 5% federal GST still applies to taxable goods and services in the province.

Is the sales tax included in the displayed price of goods and services in Canada?

Usually, the sales tax is not included in the displayed price of goods and services in Canada. Consumers typically pay the tax in addition to the listed price at the point of sale. It is essential to consider the sales tax while shopping, especially if you are on a budget.

What are the differences between GST and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Canada?

GST is a 5% federal sales tax charged across Canada on most goods and services. HST is a combined federal and provincial sales tax used in some provinces, including Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The HST rate ranges from 13% to 15%, depending on the province, and includes the 5% federal GST as part of its total rate.