Micro Feed-In Tariff Program in Ontario and HST: The CRA Clarifies Their Position

Last Week, the Canada Revenue Agency ("CRA") released GST/HST Info Sheet GI-122 "The GST/HST Implications of the Acquisition of Solar Panels Under the micro Feed-In Tariff Program in Ontario" to clarify when a person must register for GST/HST purposes and when input tax credits ("ITCS") will be allowed.  The new Info Sheet follows a period of uncertainty during which auditors would not allow ITC claims (and auditors questioned whether homeowners in the Micro FIT were permitted to register for GST/HST purposes).

Under the Micro Feed-In Tariff Program in Ontario, homeowners may install solar panels on their roof or elsewhere on their property, engage in activity of electricity generation, and engage in the commercial activity of selling the electricity to the Province of Ontario.  The issue is whether the homeowner is renovating used residential property (where no ITCs would be allowed) or purchasing solar panels and other equipment to manufacture energy and sell that energy to the province.

The Info Sheet determines that the homeowner (participating in the Ontario Micro FIT program) must register for GST/HST purposes if he/she receives more that $30,000 per year from the province under the program.  If the homeowner does not make $30,000 under the program, he/she may be a "small supplier" and would not be required to register for GST/HST purposes.  Small suppliers may voluntarily register for GST/HST purposes.

If a homeowner registers for GST/HST purposes, he/she must charge, collect and remit GST/HST on the money received from the Ontario government under the FIT Program.  They also must be careful to charge GST/HST on other taxable supplies (e.g., garage sales, sales of used cars, etc.).

If a registered homeowner purchases equipment to be used in connection with energy generation, he/she may claim ITCs and recover the GST/HST paid on those purchases.  However, these claims are subject to an audit by the CRA.  As a result, homeowners must be careful to not use the CRA as a personal ATM machine.  In other words, the CRA will scrutinize ITC claims to ensure unrelated home repairs and other personal expenses do not give rise to ITC claims.

For more information, there is a complex / high level opinion given by Torys LLP to the Solar Industries Association that has been posted on the Internet. For even more information, please go to the Solar Industries Association web-site.

Canada Revenue Agency Issues Draft Policy On HST Self-Assessment & Seeks Comments

It is unusual for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to seek public comments on a difficult harmonized sales tax ("HST") topic.  Take advantage of the opportunity to shape their future policy.

On September 9, 2011, the CRA released DRAFT GST/HST Notice 266 "Harmonized Sale Tax - Self-assessment of the provincial part of HST in respect of property and services brought into a participating province".  The deadline for filing comments is October 31, 2011.  This document is 77 pages in length, so it will take time to review and find what will not work in practice.

Financial services providers, financial institutions, multi-jurisdictional charities & non-profit organizations, universities & colleges with campuses in more than one province, long term care home providers operating in more than one province, residential real estate management companies operating in more than one province, doctors and medical professionals or management companies operating in more than one province and other exempt businesses would be affected by this draft policy.  Non-resident companies also should be mindful of the draft policy if they are active in Canada and make exempt supplies.

In addition, even though the HST provinces should realize that they import supplies, they may not think of the HST consequences.  Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland/Labrador and British Columbia (until they stop being a participating province) should also consider how the policy will affect them.

While the policy is in draft, it will be applied going back to July 1, 2010.  Also, while it is draft now, it will be finalized in the future.  The CRA auditors will consider this policy to be an assessment road map.  Please take the time to make sure it reflects a workable solution.

While it is self-serving for me to say this: Ask a sales tax lawyer for help in reviewing the draft policy and writing your comments.  This is your chance to improve your future and you can save money in the long run if you fix the problems before the policy is engraved in stone.

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For Many Businesses In Ontario, Only The Accounting Departments Knows HST Means More Work

When harmonized sales tax ("HST") was announced to be introduced into Ontario, the McGuinty Government told everyone that the administrative burden for businesses will decrease.  Those who work in the area know the truth - there is more work now than there was before HST.

Big businesses (many of which are not really that big) have a greater administrative burden with HST record keeping and reporting because they recapture certain input tax credits and undertake the calculations very quickly or face late filing penalties. 

Builders of real property experience a greater administrative burden with HST because they must file many different forms for transitional rebates, new housing rebates and the recaptured input tax credits.  What they did not tell builders is that they will have to file separate forms for the GST portion of the rebate and the PVAT portion of the rebate.  Builders also face late filing penalties.

Same holds true for long term care home and retirement home builders who also must file multiple forms to claim the new residential rental property rebates and transitional rebates (separate forms for each for the GST portion and the PVAT portion).  I have spoken with one client who spent hours just trying to determine which forms needed to be filed out.  Some portions of some forms did not need to be completed because there were other forms to complete instead.  My client could not figure out what to do to get the much needed money back and called me.  It even took me a couple of billable hours to create the road map.  Quite frankly, the forms are a bureaucratic mess.  I should also note that after the forms are filed by builders, they are usually audited and valuations are required before the money is paid (often after a year of waiting).

Public sector bodies (municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals, charities, not-for-profits) also have to complete and file separate forms for the GST portion and the PVAT of the public sector body rebate.  In most cases, the percentage of the rebate at the federal level is different than the rate at the provincial (PVAT) level.  If the public sector body (e.g. a charity) operates in more than one province, there are separate calculations because the provincial rebate rates are not harmonized.  Some provinces do not offer all the rebates.

In addition, businesses must collect HST according to the place of supply rules.  Some of these businesses are charging HST on transactions where they did not previously collect provincial sales tax.  This may be because the sales tax base changed or it may be because the transaction involves an HST province.  Prior to HST, there may not have been a nexus between the supplier in the province and after HST the business is a tax collector of HST.

There are many other examples that I could provide.  Many involving having to spend large amounts on legal or accounting advice to make sure 13%/15%/12% mistakes are not made.  Instead of providing more examples where the administrative burden has increased, I will ask you to provide real life examples by making comments.  Please add to the discussion.

Ontario HST Agreement Provides Opportunity for More Point of Sale Rebates

If one reads the Ontario - Canada Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement (the "HST Agreement") signed by Minister Dwight Duncan, it is clear that there is more room for point of sale (POS) rebates.  Point of sales rebate means the 8% provincial component of the HST is not payable.

Article 3 of Annex B of the HST Agreement provides:

Where the Province advises Canada of its desire to designate particular property or services as items eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province effective on and from a particular day, the Parties agree that the Province will be permitted to designate those property and services as such items if the total value, as determined by Finance (Canada) in consultation with the Province, of all such items that would be eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province immediately after the particular day (including the particular property or services) and that were supplied in the Province during the last calendar year for which the GST Base in respect of the Province has been determined, in accordance with Annex “A”, does not exceed 5% of that GST Base. 
 

What this means is that Ontario may grant point of sale rebates (called "POS") in respect of the provincial component of the HST (called "PVAT").  “GST Base”  is defined in Annex B to mean "in respect of the Province for a calendar year means the estimated tax base under the harmonized sales taxes for the Province in the calendar year, as determined by Finance (Canada) pursuant to Formula D of Annex “A” (referred to in that Annex as “PROVBASEt”)."  I won't complicate things further by going through Formula D.

Ontario granted a very small number of POS rebates:

• books
• children’s clothing and footwear
• children’s diapers
• children’s car seats and car booster seats
• feminine hygiene products
• printed newspapers
• prepared food and beverages sold for a total consideration of $4 or less

There is a lot of room for more POS rebates.  Tim Hudak has promised if elected October 6th to negotiate a POS rebate in respect of hydro and home heating.  British Columbia negotiated that one from the very beginning.

In this blog, I have the luxury of making my own recommendations.  My first recommendation would be for a POS rebate on healthy prepared meals such as salads (the salads I buy cost more than $4.00).  I also think that bicycles and accessories should not be subject to PVAT (there was an exemption under the Retail Sales Tax).  To promote Ontario culture, family outings and tourism, I think the former retail sales tax exemption for admissions to small theaters should reappear as a POS rebate.  In my view, vitamins should be the subject of a POS rebate. 

In addition, Ontario should determine whether more transactions involving hospitals, nursing homes health care and education can be the subject of a POS rebate.  The HST on these items that require government funding should be reviewed because it is an area of government spending that can be reduced without negatively affecting service.

I could go on, but I will receive many negative partisan comments if I do.  As a taxpayer who knows about HST, I feel that more POS rebates and relief could have been granted from the beginning.  The McGuinty Government chose what POS rebates to grant or chose not to grant many rebates.  Given the insignificant coverage of the POS rebates in the current CITCA, they chose tax revenues over using their POS bandwith.

Would You Like To Get On The HST Bandwidth Wagon?

The Canada Revenue Agency ("CRA") is looking at the characterization of telecommunication services provided by non-traditional means (such as Voice over Internet Protocol).  Which HST place of supply rule applies depends on the characterization.  What is important to know if that if the CRA does not have all the answers yet (which, it does not), you may not be charging HST properly if you do not ask them.

The CRA has already received a few advance ruling requests.  The CRA has indicated that they are looking at 4 different requests that deal with VoIP services:

  • supplies of VoIP services by a non-resident supplier where the communications are initiated outside Canada, but received in Canada;
  • supplies of VoIP service calling plans for a flat fee;
  • supplies of VoIP services provided where the communication are initiated in Canada, but received outside Canada; and
  • supplies of VoIP services provided by a non-resident where the communications are initiated and received outside Canada, but routed through a server located in Canada.

If you have similar questions, it may be wise to request an advance GST/HST ruling from the CRA.  It may take time (possibly years) before the CRA issues a policy statement based on the rulings it provides.  It also may take months or years for the CRA to publish the rulings it gives to those who have asked.  If you would like to receive your own binding ruling (that may be handed to a CRA auditor when they visit a supplier or a recipient of VoIP services), you will need to submit your own ruling request.

The great benefit of GST/HST ruling requests is that it demonstrates due diligence in the event that the CRA disagrees with you in the end.  Acts that count as "due diligence" can relive a director from a director's liability claim.

The HST Place of Supply Rules for Conferences May Not Apply to Sponsorships

Many associations hold their conferences or meetings in Canada and/or HST provinces (Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland/Labrador).  For example, the American Bar Association recently hosted their annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario.  I was asked whether a sponsorship by a U.S.-based law firm would be subject to harmonized sales tax ("HST").

The answer is "It all depends".  There are two HST place of supply rules that need to be considered.  In section 28 of Part I of the New Harmonized Value-Added Tax System Regulations, there is a specific rule for "location specific events" (like a conference).  For this rule to apply, there must be a direct connection between the service being performed (e.g. the service of giving recognition) by the supplier and the event (e.g., the conference).

Depending on what exact services are being provided in return for the sponsorship, the Canada Revenue Agency may not consider the connection to be direct.  An example of an indirect service is advertising services (such as including the firm's name in promotional materials).  If this is the case, the general place of supply rule would apply and not the specific rule relating to location specific events.  The general place of supply rules for services is found in section 13 of Part I of the New Harmonized Value-Added Tax System Regulations.

In the example given, the U.S. law firm (if it does not have any offices in Canada) would not receive a service in an HST province.  As a result, HST would not apply to the consideration paid for the sponsorship. 

If the U.S. law firm had offices in the united States and an office in Canada, an analysis of the location "most closely connected with the supply" would be required.

If the U.S. law firm received admission tickets to the event as part of the sponsorship package, it may be that the CRA would consider that the supplier provided a multiple supply and a portion of the consideration paid would be subject to HST.

For more information, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak, a sales tax lawyer in Ontario at 416-760-8999.

This Audit Comes With A Warning

Recently, I was called in to assist a vendor who had a visit from an Ontario retail sales tax ("ORST") auditor on a Tuesday and the auditor indicated that the assessment would be issued on Wednesday.  What was different about this audit was that the issues were complex and it was so very quick. A year ago, this audit would have taken months to complete.  A year ago, the auditor would give the vendor time to review an audit assessment before pushing the "issue assessment" button.  A year ago, the auditor would have allowed the complex issues to be debated and possibly would have requested guidance from tax advisory on the complex issues.  Not this year ....

What was different is that this auditor had arrived with the conclusions already formed.  This meant two things: (1) the auditor was targeting a specific type of business and had seen the issue before, and (2) the auditor was rushing quickly through a list of targets.

What is different is that ORST auditors move to the Canada Revenue Agency in March 2012 and have to complete all remaining audits before they move jobs.  Auditors do not have the luxury of time because the clock is ticking.

Ontario businesses need to prepare for audits and call in specialists earlier - procrastination is no longer an option.  Vendors may not have time to find an ORST specialist and canvass the issues in the period between the auditor's initial visit and the auditor pressing the "issue assessment" button.  Specialists may not be able to run to a vendor's aid on short notice.

Once an assessment is issued, the assessed person must file a notice of objection in order to dispute the amount assessed.  More importantly, the assessed person must pay 100% of the assessment immediately or according to a payment schedule arranged with the Ministry of Revenue.  Even more importantly, it takes over 2 years for an appeals officer to review an ORST notice of assessment and even longer to make a decision.  I have a notice of assessment filed in 2007 that has not been dealt with yet by the Ministry.  If the issues are complex, the assessment may be confirmed at the appeals stage and the assessed person must go to court to get the money back.

ORST audits are different in this final rush to close the books.  Vendors who do not realize that things have changed may be surprised.  Vendors who have not yet been audited, should expect a visit from an auditor.  They should also plan ahead if they want to limit the negative effects of the audit.

A Snow Storm is Heading For Southern Ontario & Municipalities Pay More with HST

Fact: It snows in Canada.

Fact: Snow plowing services were not subject to Ontario retail sales tax and are now subject to HST at the rate of 13% (previously snow plowing services were subject to 5% GST).

Fact: Prior to July 1, 2010, municipalities received a 100% rebate of GST paid on outsourced snow plowing services.

Fact: After June 1, 2010, municipalities must pay HST (13%) and receive a 100% rebate of the GST portion and only 78% rebate of the HST/PVAT portion. 

This means that 1.76% is not recoverable.  This means that HST has resulted in increased costs to municipalities for snow removal.  Depending on a municipalities snow removal budget and use of 3rd party contractors, the cost could exceed $1 Million per season.

Environment Canada is telling us that snow removal services are going to be needed today and tomorrow. My opinion is that the winter of 2010/2011 will the politicians a lesson that snow removal services should be zero-rated as they are necessary in Ontario.  Alternatively, municipalities need a 100% MUSH sector rebate on the PVAT portion.

I always get often angry emails from people when I raise areas where the GST/HST regime can be improved. Guess I should expect some emails regarding this post.

Did You Know That McGuinty Changed The Tax Status of Fire Trucks With HST Implementation

On July 1, 2010, fire trucks became subject to HST in Ontario.  Previously fire trucks were not subject to Ontario retail sales tax (ORST).  Paragraph 7(1)23 of the Retail Sales Tax Act (Ontario) exempted "fire fighting vehicles, as defined by the Minister, when purchased at a price of more than $1000 per vehicle for the exclusive use of a municipality, university, public hospital, local services board or volunteer group, and repairs for such vehicles."  As a result, the tax rate increased by 8%.

Many of the bodies that purchase fire trucks are engaged in exempt activities.  This means that they do not recover the 8% HST/PVAT by way of an input tax credit.  many of the bodies that purchase fire trucks are entitled to a partial MUSH sector rebate.  However, none get 100% of the HST/PVAT back.  This means fire trucks are more expensive due to unrecoverable HST.

With provincial/municipal/university/hospital and other budgets so constrained, I sincerely hope that McGuinty's decision to collect more tax on fire trucks does not cost any Ontarian their life.

By the way, I disagree with McGuinty's decision to impose HST on fire trucks.  I support our hard working fire men & women who bravely put their lives on the line for us.  Let me know if you agree with me and let McGuinty know that you disagree with his decision.

Should Companies/Partners Undertake GST/HST Inspections Before Buying a Business?

Most people hire a home inspector to inspect a home before buying a home.  They hire home inspectors to find the problems that they cannot see so that they do not experience large unexpected expenditures after the closing date.

Should businesses (corporations and partners/joint venturers) hire a GST/HST expert to conduct a GST/HST focused review prior to the closing date so that they do not buy GST/HST problems that a Canada Revenue Agency auditor may blame on the buyer?  What I am referring to is due diligence and a private audit of GST/HST books and records.

A GST/HST inspection is prudent if the buyer is buying the shares of a corporation.  The past errors (liabilities) are acquired in a share purchase transaction.  If you find a serious problem with the GST/HST compliance, then a purchase price reduction can be discussed.  The purchase price reduction for the shares may be quantified by way of a pre-closing voluntary disclosure - but that may delay the transaction.  If you do not want to delay the closing of the transaction, an amount of the purchase price may be put in a reserve or escrow account as the voluntary disclosure proceeds.  It is not necessary to conduct a a voluntary disclosure and reserves can be maintained depending what is found in and quantified during the GST/HST inspection.

Similarly, a GST/HST inspection is prudent if the buyer is purchasing a partnership unit or joint venture interest in an existing partnership or joint venture. As discussed with corporations, the buyer would be buying the GST/HST history and the existing problems.

Even if the acquisition is an asset transaction, a GST/HST inspection is prudent.  If the buyer is making offers of employment to existing employees, they will continue to make any mistakes they had been making in their record keeping and reportings. If you would like to stop bad practices, you need to know they exist and take positive steps to teach proper practices.

GST/HST inspections are not usual - yet.  With the implementation of GST/HST in Ontario and British Columbia, the cost of mistakes increased to 13% and 12% respectively, plus additional basis points for interest and penalties.  Depending on the value of the business that is being acquired, there is more money at stake than the cost of replacing a leaky roof or old furnace.

How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

A pet (dog or cat or other) will cost more because he veterinarian bills are subject to HST.  Prior to HST, you would have paid Ontario retail sales tax (PST) to the pet store when you purchased your pet and you would have paid PST on the food and toys.  However, prior to July 1, 2010, you would not have paid PST on the vet exams and tests.  Now, you will pay HST on virtually every charge by the vet.

On December 28, 2010, I took my dog to the vet as she had bloody sores on her back and was in pain. She cried most of the night and could not get comfortable.

The vet charged me $77.00 (plus HST) for the examination and made decisions to run tests.  The hospital cytology cost $66.00 plus HST, the skin scraping (which is actually gathering a little skin to analyze) cost $51.50 plus HST and the culture and sensitivity aerobic (which is testing the goopy matter for the type of infection so that the correct antibiotics are prescribed) cost $129.50 plus HST.

After the analysis, antibiotics were prescribed at $64.60 plus HST (the same antibiotics are not subject to HST when prescribed to a human), a medicated topical spray to calm skin cost $50.46 plus HST (again a similar treatment would be exempt if prescribed to a human patient).  I also purchased some skin sensitivity dog food that was subject to HST.

My poor dog was still very uncomfortable, so I took her back to the vet for a medicated bath (and that really helped).  The medicated bath was $65.00 plus HST.  The vet also prescribed another medicine to be added with food or to be injected in my dogs mouth with a syringe (without needle tip).  This cost another $49,32 plus HST.

I still need to purchase a three month supply of Invermectin to solve the real issue - demodex (the second incidence in the last two years and my dog is 10 years old).

In addition, I still need to take my dog for her annual physical in 2011, pay for her annual shots and her heart worm medication.  I also will take her for her semi-regular groomings and nail clippings.  I buy rawhide bones for her weekly teeth cleaning.  I should not forget to mention that I will continue to buy her dog food and pay HST.

All totaled, I will pay over $250 in HST in the first year of HST on my dog.

While I can make sacrifices to pay the HST, some cannot and should consider the ongoing costs of pets, including HST, when making purchasing decisions.  If I had to choose between relieving my dogs pain and treating her infection or not, it would be a hard decision.  my vet tells me that many pet owners since July 1, 2010 could not afford treatment for their pets and either the pet suffered or was euthanized.

Tip: Service Providers Must Make HST Place of Supply Determination of an Invoice-by-Invoice Basis

Service providers should not make a determination of the place of supply for harmonized sales tax (HST) and applicable HST rate once at the beginning and not revist the analysis.  As a technical matter, the legislation requires that service providers make a determination for each billing period because the relevant facts may change from invoice to invoice.  For example, the types of services may change from billing period to billing period, which could affect the application of the HST place of supply rules.  If there is more than one office or home address provided by the client, the location most closely connected with the supply may change from invoice to invoice.

The advice is do not follow the Ronco advice "Set It and Forget It".  Canada Revenue Agency auditors are being trained to look into the details of each invoice and look at changes.

MUSH Sector Rebates

This Post is out-of-date

A registrant/non-registrant for GST/HST purposes which makes exempt supplies will not be entitled to claim input tax credits (unless the entity also makes taxable supplies). Some entities are not entitled to claim any rebates of the GST/HST paid on business inputs.  The MUSH sector may or may not be entitled to claim a rebate depending on the province in which the entity is located.

I have promised to share my MUSH sector rebate chart.

MUSH Sector Entities GST Portion  Rebate HST Portion Rebate - Ontario HST Portion Rebate - BC HST Portion Rebate - NS HST Portion Rebate - NB HST Portion Rebate - Nfld
Municipalities 100% 78% 75% 57.14% 57.14% No rebate
Hospitals 83% 87% 58% 83% No rebate No rebate
School Authorities 68% 93% 87% 68% No rebate No rebate
Universities & Colleges 67% 78% 75% 67% No rebate No rebate
Charities 50% 82% 57% 50% 50% 50%
Qualifying Not-for-Profits 50% 82% 57% 50% 50% 50%

This chart highlights many important problems for the MUSH sector. 

1. The lack of significant rebates for hospitals in British Columbia, Newfoundland/Labrador and New Brunswick will put a strain on provincial budgets due to the unrecoverable health care costs.

2. The lack of significant rebates for school authorities and universities and colleges in Newfoundland/Labrador and New Brunswick will put a strain on provincial budgets due to the unrecoverable education costs.

3. Nova Scotia was able to relieve some of its budget pressures when it signed a CITCA.

4. For Ontario, the effective unrecoverable GST/HST rates (what the entity will not be able to recover by way of a rebate) in respect of purchases for use in exempt activities are:

MUSH Sector Entity Effective GST/HST Rate after Rebate
Municipalities 1.76%
Hospitals 1.89%
School Authorities 2.16%
Universities and Colleges 3.41%
Charities 3.94%
Qualifying Not-For-Profits 3.94%

4. For British Columbia, the effective unrecoverable GST/HST rates (what the entity will not be able to recover by way of a rebate) in respect of purchases for use in exempt activities are:

MUSH Sector Entity Effective GST/HST Rate after Rebate
Municipalities 1.75%
Hospitals 3.79%
School Authorities 2.51%
Universities and Colleges 3.40%
Charities 5.51%
Qualifying Not-For-Profits 5.51%

 

New ORST Auditors Are Making Big Mistakes - What Can You Do?

Ontario has hired a significant number of new auditors to complete Ontario retail sales tax (ORST) audits before the March 2012 deadline when the Ministry of Revenue staff join the Canada Revenue Agency.  What I am seeing is inexperienced auditors who do not know the law issuing large assessments to Ontario vendors and walking away saying that they can file a notice of objection if the vendor disagrees.  The audits are being rushed and the new auditors have not allocated themselves enough time to complete the task correctly.

What this means is that assessed vendors must file a notice of objection and pay the full amount of the assessed ORST while they wait for a Ministry of Revenue appeals officer to review the objection (and it takes more than two years for the appeals officer to pick up an appeal). I have an objection that I filed in 2007 that has not been moved forward by the Appeals Branch.

What can vendors do?  My best recommendation is to be very prepared for any audit.  As soon as you receive the letter or call that an ORST audit is to occur, organize all the relevant documents.  Conduct test audit to determine if you have any problems. Find your own mistakes --- in other words, do the auditors job before the auditor. Know what the assessment should be before the auditor does.

If you have a disagreement with the auditor over the application of the law or his/her interpretation of the facts, call in an expert ASAP.  Many vendors wait until after the problems have developed too far to call in an expert.  If the time clock is running out on the audit, it becomes more difficult to set up a meeting with a supervisor or request that the auditor seek a tax advisory opinion.

Many vendors want to save money and ask a book-keeper or accountant without sales tax expertise to help them during the audit and in preparing notices of objection.  Please remember that it may cost more if you are assessed and have to pay the full amount while waiting for an objection to be considered.  Once the Ministry of Revenue has your money, they will not want to give it back and will be incentivised to delay.

Ensuring that the assessment is correct when it is issued is the best strategy to adopt.  That being said, when you are audited by an inexperienced auditor for the government, it is easier said than done.

A Thought About GST and Imports

Since the implementation of harmonized sales tax ("HST") in Ontario and British Columbia, the Government of Canada should re-think the imposition of goods and services tax ("GST") on imports of commercial goods. In connection with the implementation of HST, the CITCAs include provisions such that HST is not imposed on imported commercial goods.  What is the logic of continuing to impose GST on commercial imports? Wouldn't it be better for Canadian businesses and, in particular manufacturers, if the GST cash flow cost on imported commercial goods is removed?  If the Canada Border Services Agency can live with the HST regime for imports, why can't they also live with no GST on commercial goods and GST on non-commercial goods?  Wouldn't it be a more efficient use of government resources if the Canada Border Services Agency is no longer responsible for collection of GST on imported commercial goods and is not longer shares verification/audit functions with the Canada Revenue Agency?  For that matter, wouldn't it be better for businesses if they did not have to be subject to GST audits/compliance verifications by two separate government agencies who do not adequately share information and interpretations?  I am just saying ...

HST and Disbursements

Disbursements have been an issue under the goods and services tax (GST) and will become a more complex issue with harmonized sales tax (HST).  When I speak about disbursements, I am talking additional charges or expenses incurred by the service providers, such as parking, filing fees, photocopies, etc. that are billed to the client with the fees for services.

As a general rule, disbursements take on the same GST/HST character as the underlying supply of services.

In 2004, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)  reissued Policy Statement P-209R "Lawyer's Disbursements" and indicated that they took the position that there are two categories of disbursements that may be found on a lawyer's bill:

1) Expenses/disbursements incurred by the lawyer as agent for the client; and

2) Expenses/disbursements not incurred as agent for the client.

The expenses/disbursements incurred as agent may be passed on to the client without additional GST/HST (however, the service provider should not take an input tax credit and then not charge GST/HST as the GST/HST should be passed to the recipient).

The same two categories apply to other service providers.  However, depending on the nature of the services, it may be that for other service providers expenses are not normally incurred in the context of an agency.  As a result, it is important to understand the CRA's administrative position:

The phrase “incurred as agent” indicates that the disbursement described is generally incurred in a lawyer's capacity as agent for a particular client. As such, no GST/HST is exigible on the subsequent reimbursement by the client. The phrase “not incurred as agent” indicates that the disbursement described is generally incurred otherwise than in a lawyer's capacity as agent for a particular client. As such, GST/HST is exigible on the subsequent reimbursement by the client (to the extent that GST/HST is exigible on the consideration for the service provided by the lawyer to the client). The characterization of each disbursement is based on the application of the principles of agency to a typical transaction involving that disbursement.Policy statement P-182R, Agency was used as the basis for this analysis.

In 2010, there have been two important court cases that provide additional guidance on the issue of disbursements (Merchant Law Group v The President of the Canada Revenue Agency (FCA); Roberge Transport Inc. v. The Queen (TCC).  Both cases give guidance that a court will consider as relevant whether the parties had an agency agreement (or some statement concerning the expenses being incurred as agent) in place to support the arguments that the expenses where incurred in the context of an agency. The Roberge Transport case is important to review because it is written by Justice Steven D'Arcy, who was one of the leading GST lawyers in the country before joining the bench in 2009.

Service providers, therefore, should follow the existing policy statement and add what may be taken from the cases.

There are many complex situations where the HST treatment of disbursements will become relevant.

Example 1:  A service provider pays a filing fee to a municipality in circumstances where the filing fee is exempt for GST/HST purposes.   The service provider may be required to charge HST when it bills the disbursement when the service provider is not an agent for the client.

Example 2: A service provider in an HST province (e.g. Ontario) retains a service provider on a sub-contract basis in a non-HST province (e.g., Manitoba) and pays the service provider's invoice and includes the disbursement on the Ontario service provider's invoice to the client.

Example 3: A trucking company providers trucking services to a Canadian manufacturer and incurs inter-provincial fuel taxes that it invoices the client as a disbursement. If the trucking company is not acting as an agent, there may be HST on the incurred taxes depending on the facts.

The answers re whether HST must be charged in respect of a particular disbursement will depend upon the facts.  I can tell you that businesses need more clarification regarding this subject.

My best advice is to read the Policy Statement on "Agency" and "Lawyer's Disbursements" and clearly state in retainer letters and contracts which expenses and disbursements will be incurred as agent for the client.  The list will depend on the business activities and usual disbursements.  You should seek help compiling the "Incurred as Agent" listing.

In addition, it is better to be consistent in your approach to billing disbursements. A billing policy is helpful and should be provided to all sales and billing staff.  Arguments will have greater persuasive value if it can be shown that a particular type of expense is always treated in a certain manner (usually as incurred as agent in order to not charge GST/HST).

Gratuities as Added Consideration For the Supply

I was at an event last night hosted by Women's Post and a woman entrepreneur in the audience who was in the events planning business in Ontario asked why harmonized sales tax (HST) was charged being charged on gratuities (she had noticed this since the implementation of HST).  She noticed that venues and caterers were quoting (1) the charge for the room and/or (2)  the food/beverages and (3) a mandatory gratuity and that HST was being charged on all charges, including the gratuity.

The answer is that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) considers the mandatory gratuity to be extra consideration for the supply (say, of the venue.food/beverages/etc) rather than a contribution towards the salary (non-taxable) of the employees that will be working the event. The CRA had taken this position with the goods and services tax (GST).  GST/HST is payable on the consideration for the supply and since the gratuity is considered by the CRA to be additional consideration, it goes into the calculation/formula.  As a result, the CRA takes the position that GST/HST is payable on the added consideration that is the gratuity portion.

I have seen the same analysis used by CRA when they look at gratuities paid on restaurant meals, resort vacation packages, hair salon services, spa services, etc - whenever there is a mandatory gratuity OR when the gratuity is included in credit card payment (that is the recipient pays adds a gratuity to a credit card payment).  For example, when I go to the hair salon, I pay by VISA.  Before I indicate my PIN number when I use my chip card, I am asked whether I wish to add a tip or gratuity and I usually add 15%-20% of the tax-excluded price for the services rendered.  The CRA when auditing such service providers/venues, adds the gratuity amounts to the consideration for the services and calculates the GST/HST owing.

Based on the cases I have seen, often the service provider does not charge the GST/HST on the gratuity portion and has to dip into their pockets to pay a substantial assessment.

The morale of the story is that when possible, recipients should give waitresses/waiters and service providers cash tips when they are adding an amount to the bill for the exceptions services performed by the individual to the recipient.  If the gratuities are in the invoices or in the credit card payments 13/113 of the amount in Ontario (12/112 in BC, 15/115 in NS, 113/113 in Nfld/Lab. and NB) will not go to the waitress/service provider and will be remitted to the Receiver General of Canada.  This is unfortunate because the individuals affected are making low hourly wages and rely on the gratuities as employment income (to make ends meet).

I have been involved in structuring the payments so that more money goes to the real people who work very hard for the additional employment income - it is possible if a business plans in advance of the CRA visit.

Cascading Taxes: When Is HST Payable In Addition To/Including Another Tax?

A tax on a tax is called a "cascading tax".  Cascading taxes are common in today's world.  As a general rule, most new taxes and levies can result in cascading tax (HST charged on top of the new tax) unless the provincial government asks the federal cabinet to list the new tax in a regulation.

Goods and services tax (GST) and harmonized sales tax (if applicable) (HST) is calculated on the consideration payable for a supply of property or services.  Subsection 154(2) of the Excise Tax Act (Canada) provides that "the consideration for a supply of property or a service includes:

(a) any tax, duty or fee imposed under an Act of Parliament [that means federal laws] that is payable by the recipient or payable or collectible by the supplier, in respect of that supply or in respect of the production, importation, consumption or use of the property or service [other than GST/HST];

(b) any provincial levy [intended to cover provincial laws] that is payable by the recipient or payable or collectible by the supplier, in respect of that supply or in respect of the consumption or use of the property or service, other than a prescribed provincial levy that is payable by the recipient [that means it is in a regulation]; and

(c) any other amount that is collectible by the supplier under an Act of the legislature of any province and that is equal to, or is collectible on account of or in lieu of, a provincial levy, except where the amount is payable by the recipient and the provincial levy is a prescribed levy."

The term "provincial levy" is defined to mean "a tax, duty or fee imposed under an Act of the legislature of a province in respect of the supply, consumption or use of the property  or a service."  What is most significant about this definition is that unless the levy is imposed pursuant to an Act of the legislature of the province, GST/HST would not be payable on the tax-included price. It is always necessary to go to the source of the taxation/fee/levy.

The Taxes, Duties and Fees (GST/HST) Regulations contain a negative list of provincial levies that are excluded from the GST/HST calculation.  If the provincial law is not in the list, then the provincial levy is included in the price for the purposes of calculating GST/HST.

Ontario has a very short list including the following:

  • the Land Transfer Tax Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. L.6,
  • Chapter 760 of the City of Toronto Municipal Code, made under Part X of the City of Toronto Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 11, Sched. A, if the tax, duty or fee would have applied to that transfer under that chapter as it read on February 1, 2008

The Taxes, Duties and Fees (GST/HST) Regulations also prescribe in the list "a tax imposed by the legislature of a province, under an Act referred to in the definition of "general sales tax rate", which includes subsection 2(1) of the Retail Sales Tax Act (Ontario). This exclusion is more complicated, but has been generally applied to exclude Ontario retail sales tax from the calculation of GST.

Now that Ontario has harmonized and is not using the Retail Sales Tax Act to impose taxes representing significant revenue, any new provincial levy may be included in the GST/HST calculation as it would not be listed by the Taxes, Duties and Fees (GST/HST) Regulations.  I say "may" because the other requirements in section 154 of the Excise Tax Act would have to be met. To be excluded from the GST/HST calculation, new taxes must fall within a listed Act in the manner it is identified or the provincial government must ask the Government of Canada (specifically federal cabinet) to change the regulation.

It seems as if in most situations, suppliers assume (and act as if) the tax/fee is included in the calculation of GST/HST because it is the safe thing to do.  However, questions are not asked if this is correct.   For every provincial levy or charge that we might be inclined to include for the purposes of calculating GST/HST, we must ask questions before including the fee in the calculation:

  • Is the tax/fee imposed pursuant to a law of Canada?
  • Is the tax/fee imposed pursuant to an Act of the legislature of a province?
  • Is the tax/fee imposed by a regulation or a rule and there isn't a charging provision in an Act of the legislature (I an thinking carefully about the ecotaxes)?
  • Is the tax/fee imposed under a municipal by-law?
  • On what is the tax/fee imposed?
  • Is a recipient of a supply responsible for paying the tax/fee under the law imposing the tax/fee?
  • Is the supplier of the supply required to collect the tax/fee?

I have serious questions whether the Toronto plastic bag fee is subject to HST.  I have serious questions whether GST/HST should have been charged on top of the ecotaxes.  I have questions whether certain destination marketing fees are subject to GST/HST.  I think that consumers are paying GST/HST on top of many taxes and fees when the GST/HST laws do not require GST/HST to be charged.

The unfortunate reality is that the implementation of HST has incentivized Ontario and British Columbia to cause prices to increase so that they get more HST revenues.  It is in the interest of the government for retailers and suppliers to make mistakes and overcharge consumers.  It is no longer in the interest of Ontario and British Columbia to list new provincial levies in the Taxes, Duties and Fees (GST/HST) Regulations.  It is no longer in the interests of the leaders to keep prices down for consumers.

For this reason, it is more important than ever for businesses and retailers to understand the law and force the governments to follow the law.  It is more important than ever before that provincial levies are imposed in a transparent manner.  It is more important than ever for the people to make it known that there is a cascading tax and the government is accountable to them and needs to request the new tax to be listed.

Continue Reading...

File Opening Forms May Provide Useful Information to Auditors

I am a big fan of anticipating a problem during a Canada Revenue Agency audit and solving the problem before it happens.  File opening forms may provide useful information to a CRA auditor.  The first thing they do is they inform the CRA auditor that you are diligent.  You took your GST/HST compliance responsibilities seriously.  You tried to ask the right questions in order to bill correctly.

A file opening form can be useful in recording the information that will allow you to determine whether the harmonized sales tax (HST) place of supply rules apply and at what rate you should be charging HST.

There isn't a single form that will work for all businesses - in other words, you would be wise to work with an HST lawyer or expert to develop the form and learn how to analyze the information on the form in a diligent manner.  If you have a billing policy, then you are more likely to get the answer right.

Some of the information that may be included on a file opening form (and I want to make it clear that this is not an all inclusive list) is:

  1. Date
  2. The correct legal name of the client/customer
  3. If the client is incorporated, the jurisdiction of the corporation and the incorporation number
  4. If the client is a partnership, the jurisdiction of the partnership and the partnership registration number
  5. The head office address or the address at which the individuals are located who provide instructions to you
  6. Name of the prime contact who will be giving instructions
  7. The normal location of that person
  8. Telephone number of the prime contact
  9. Fax number of the prime contact
  10. Email address of the prime contact
  11. If different than 6, the name of the person who hired you
  12. If different than 7, the normal location of the person who hired you
  13. If different than 8, the telephone number of the person who hired you
  14. Will you be providing (a) goods, (b) services, (c) real property, (4) intangible property, or (e) other
  15. A short statement of the proposed work
  16. If you are selling goods, the address to which goods will be shipped
  17. If you are providing services in respect of real property, the address at which you will be providing the services or the location of real property at issue
  18. Your client's/customer's GST/HST registration number

We would be willing to create a special file opening form for your business (for a fee to be determined based on the work involved - e.g., simple business would be $250 plus all applicable taxes).  We will ask more detailed questions about your business and add prompts for information that you will need to apply the HST place of supply rules (and ward away assessments).  We will teach you how to read the information so that you can charge the right amount of HST given your unique circumstances.  To prepare upfront, at the time of file opening, will in all likelihood be less expensive than a CRA assessment.

For more information, please contact me at 416-760-8999.  I am a Canadian sales tax lawyer.

I am Giving an HST Presentation for Graphic Designers on July 21

I am giving a webinar on July 21, 2010 at noon (EST) organized and hosted by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers - Ontario.  Members and non-members are permitted to register for the webinar.  I will spend time looking at the harmonized sales tax (HST) place of supply rules applicable to various types of graphic designers. I will also talk about things you can do to improve compliance with HST rules.  If you would like to register, please go here.

I Have Questioned Whether the EcoTaxes Are Unconstitutional

Over the last few days, I have been quoted in the media discussing Ontario's other July 1, 2010 tax reform, being the ecotaxes stated by the McGuinty Government to have been imposed by stewards under the Waste Diversion Act, 2002.  I have questioned whether the ecotaxes as implemented are unconstitutional and inconsistent with the provisions of the Waste Diversion Act, 2002 and the regulations thereto.

The two articles are:

1) Eco fee sham, Toronto Sun, by Antonella Artuso

2) Eco fee comes under fire, Toronto Sun, by Antonella Artuso

In addition, I appeared on the John Oakley radio show, CFRA Ottawa and the Motts Radio Show.

I will continue to question the ecotaxes and strongly believe that the surprise ecotaxes raise serious questions.  Taxation by government should be transparent and the government must be accountable to the people being taxed.  Government leaders should be honest with the electorate. Government leaders should show the electorate respect and not act as if "ignorant masses are compliant masses".  This is not appropriate behaviour in a democratic society. If we do not answer the questions about the legality of the ecotaxes, secret taxation will continue and become more prevalent as governments find new and innovative ways to raise revenues in order to maintain uncontrolled levels of spending.

HST = Haveto Sum Together

I have been asked many times over the last few days about reporting of harmonized sales tax (HST) on GST/HST returns.  One question was posed by a retailer who sells paintings across Canada.  He said that in the month of July (so far) he has sold paintings (and delivered the paintings in Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.  He has asked how he must report the GST/HST to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on his GST/HST return.

My response is that he must add all the GST and HST together and report the combined amount on a single line of his GST/HST return.  I will give an example to help explain:

This is an example that I have made up and does not use the numbers I have been given by any person.  Let's assume we are already at the end of July for the purposes of my example.  The painter sold the following paintings, to the following destinations, and has collected the following amounts of GST and HST:

Painting Destination Value GST Collected HST Collected
Painting 1 British Columbia $10,000 $500 $700
Painting 2 Ontario $20,000 $1000 $1,600
Painting 3 Ontario $10,000 $500 $800
Painting 4 Alberta $30,000 $1,500 0
Painting 5 Nova Scotia $10,000 $500 $1000

The amount of GST/HST that must be reported on a single line on the painter's GST/HST return will be $8,100.  For reporting purposes, it will make no difference how many sales were made in each HST province.  The total combined GST/HST is reported on as a single number.  Believe it or not (agree or not), the governments thought that this approach would be easier and a basis for selling the HST to businesses as a simple tax.

Many ask at this point how each province gets their respective HST.  The payments to provinces go into a big pot of money and are allocated according to complicated formulas in the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreements (CITCAs)  I will not bore you with the details.

One final point is that the supplier's records must be auditable.  The CRA auditor will know the combined total and will ask how that number was determined.  The details remain relevant and suppliers should keep records that are easy for the auditors (and then the audits are less painful for the suppliers).

Businesses that Sell Goods Must Charge HST Based on Delivery

I have been asked many times over the last few days questions about the HST place of supply rules for goods. 

  • Does a retailer in Alberta have to charge HST (Ontario rate) on goods sold to a Ontario resident?

Answer: Yes

  • Does a wholesaler in Ontario have to charge HST (Ontario) on goods shipped to Quebec?

Answer: No

The HST place of supply rules for goods is:  HST is applicable to tangible personal property (goods) if the goods are delivered by the supplier (seller) to the recipient (buyer) in an HST province.

For the purposes of the HST place of supply rules for goods, property (a good) is deemed to be delivered in a particular province (e.g., Ontario) by a supplier (seller) and is deemed not to be delivered in any other province by the supplier (seller) if the supplier (seller):

(a) ships the property to a destination in the particular province (e.g. Ontario) that is specified in the contract for carriage of the property or transfers possession of the property to a common carrier or consignee that the supplier has retained on behalf of the recipient (buyer) to ship the property to such destination; or

(b) sends the property (good) by mail or courier to an address in the particular province (e.g., Ontario).

This means that:

  • If an individual comes into a retail store in Ontario and purchases a widget and the retailer gives the widget to the buyer in the store, GST/HST is payable at the combined rate of 13%.
  • If an individual goes into a store in British Columbia and buys a coat and asks the retailer to ship the coat to Ontario, GST/HST is payable at the combined rate of 13%.
  • If an individual goes into a store in British Columbia and buys a coat and takes the coat with him/her, GST/HST is payable at the combined rate of 12%.
  • If an person buys a painting from an artist in Alberta and has the painter ship the painting to Nova Scotia, GST/HST is payable at the rate of 15%.
  • If an Ontario based wholesales/distributor sells goods to a retailer in Quebec and ships the goods to Quebec, GST is payable at the rate of 5%.
  • If an Ontario based wholesales/distributor sells goods to a retailer in Quebec and the retailer sends his own truck to pick up the goods, GST/HST is payable at the rate of 13% because the goods were delivered on Ontario and could be given to another person in Ontario.

HST and Actors/Actresses - Will HST Cause Actors/Actresses to Avoid Canada?

More actors and actresses are concerned that Ontario's and British Columbia's decisions to implement harmonized sales tax (HST) will affect them --- and they should be concerned.  If they do not consider the issue of HST, the cost may be 13% of the contract in Ontario or 12% in British Columbia.  Since an actor/actress may make millions of dollars filming a movie in Canada, we are not talking about small numbers.

Subsection 143(1) of the Excise Tax Act (Canada) provides that:

For the purposes of this Part, a supply of personal property or a service made in Canada by a non-resident person shall be deemed to be made outside Canada, unless
(a) the supply is made in the course of a business carried on in Canada;
(b) at the time the supply is made, the person is registered under Subdivision d of Division V; or
(c) the supply is the supply of an admission in respect of a place of amusement, a seminar, an activity or an event where the non-resident person did not acquire the admission from another person.

If this provision applies, then an actor/actress would not have to register for GST/HST purposes and would not have to charge collect and remit GST/HST on their services performed in Canada.

On the other hand, subsection 240(1) of the Excise Tax Act (Canada) is the provision relating to registration and provides that:

"Every person who makes a taxable supply in Canada in the course of a commercial activity engaged in by the person in Canada is required to be registered for the purposes of this Part, except where
(a) the person is a small supplier;
(b) the only commercial activity of the person is the making of supplies of real property by way of sale otherwise than in the course of a business; or
(c) the person is a non-resident person who does not carry on any business in Canada."

If a person must register for GST/HST purposes, they must charge, collect and remit GST/HST (if applicable) in respect of services performed in Canada (and a participating province).

Assuming that the actor/actress is a non-resident of Canada, the key question is whether they are "carrying on business" in Canada.  There is no definition of "carrying on business in Canada" in the Excise Tax Act.  As a result, whether a particular actor/actress is carrying on business in Canada will depend on the specific facts.  There are many factors specific to the work/life of the actor/actress, their background and their activities in a year that may cause the Canada Revenue Agency (Canada's IRS) (the "CRA) to conclude he/she is carrying on business in Canada as opposed to carrying on business outside Canada and visiting Canada (briefly) in connection with that outside business.

The CRA has issued a policy statement concerning the factors they consider when determining whether a person is carrying on business in Canada --- but none of the examples relates to actors/actresses. Policy Statement P-051R "Carrying on Business in Canada" was last updated in 2005.

It is important to note that getting GST/HST correct may mean that the actor/actress (or their production company) would charge GST/HST on the portion of their services performed in Canada and the payor would recover that GST/HST by way of an input tax credit.  If they do not ask the question, it may result in auditors, assessments and a bad & costly experience.

It is important to note that the GST/HST test is not connected to a permanent establishment in Canada like the Canada-United States Income Tax Treaty. In other words, an individual may not have to pay Canadian income tax and may be entitled to register for GST/HST purposes and charge GST/HST on a contract for services.

Canadian commodity tax lawyers can help apply the CRA's "carrying on business" test and provide opinions that are subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Will ORST Refunds Be Another TFSA Miscommunication?

Many businesses may be entitled to a refund of Ontario retails tax (ORST) paid in respect of goods and/or "taxable services" paid for before July 1, 2010 where the goods and/or "taxable services" are provided after July 1, 2010. 

The best examples I can give are annual subscriptions/licenses of computer software and leases of goods (however, there are other situations).  Please review your invoices to see if you paid an annual or other periodic amount of ORST before July 1, 2010 and set aside those invoices that relate, in part, to the period after July 1, 2010.

As a matter of law, it may be that the Canada Revenue Agency expects to receive harmonized sales tax (HST) for the portion o the supply that occurs after July 1, 2010. The HST transition rules may require an allocation between the pre-HST period and the post-HST period.  It also may be that as a matter of law, you were required to pay ORST on the full invoice at the time it was paid and things changed. You may entitled to receive a refund of ORST paid pre-HST in respect of the post-HST period.  I know that this may sound silly, but tax changes sometimes have silly effects/results.

I have reviewed the Canada Revenue Agency web-site for some guidance on this issue and have found nothing (so far).  I have also reviewed the Ontario Ministry of Revenue web-site for some guidance on this issue and have found nothing (so far).  It is for this reason that I am saying that the HST may be a source of confusion, like tax free savings accounts.  It would be helpful for businesses to be told clearly what is expected of them.

I will give an example in order to clarify: 

For example, some businesses and MUSH sector entities may an annual license for computer software in May 2010 and paid Ontario retail sales tax in addition to GST and the lump sum annual lease price.  In this example, computer software was licensed for a year for $120,000 and GST would have been $6000 and ORST would have been $9600. However, the ORST portion would be in respect of software that could be used post HST and, therefore, the purchaser must pay HST is respect of the period after June 30, 2010.  10 of 12 months would be subject to HST instead of ORST.  As a result, the purchaser would have to self-assess and remit HST on $100,000 = $8,000.  The business would be entitled to a refund of ORST from the Ministry of Revenue in the amount of $8000.

The self-assessment would occur on the GST/HST return for the first reporting period after July 1, 2010.  There is a line on the GST/HST return for self-assessed GST/HST.

The refund application would not be filed with the CRA, but, rather would be filed with the Ontario Ministry of Revenue. Here is the general refund application form - it is difficult to find on the Ontario Ministry of Revenue web-site.

This may sound silly - robbing Peter in order to pay Peter (and Paul). Some businesses for some purchases may pay both HST and ORST and will have to wait to get the ORST back.  These same businesses have audit risk under both the ORST and HST tax regimes.  The business has paid the correct amount of tax initially and then has a problem and can be assessed for failing to ensuring the tax was paid to the right person. 

You will not be able to say that ultimately Ontario received its money because technically under the HST regime, the HST goes into a pot of money and that money is allocated according to formulas, which are not based on the place of supply.  The formulas do not allow for a matching of HST to a particular province.

In a more perfect tax system, there would be a joint CRA and Ontario Ministry of Finance form that would allow a business to identify payments of ORST in the pre-HST period that cover the post-HST period.  In a more perfect tax system, the governments would ask for a copy of the invoice and make the corrections for you.  In a more perfect tax system the governments would waive interest and penalties when there is not intention to underpay sales taxes.  It should be easy for businesses to comply with sales tax laws, but sometimes it is not simple or easy.

Many Government Purchasing Departments Are Reopening Contracts and Seeking Price Reductions

This past week, I have seen a dozen or so requests made by municipal and Ontario government departments writing to their suppliers and seeking price reductions relating to existing contracts on the basis that savings related to embedded Ontario retail sales tax (ORST) must be passed on to the buyer (government department).  Most of the requests that I have seen suggest that the basis for the request is contained in the harmonized sales tax (HST) laws.

The truth is that the HST laws do not require that suppliers reopen contacts for renegotiation and pass on any savings to the purchasing government department.  The question is whether there is a provision in the contract that requires that any savings relating to tax reform be passed on to the purchasing government department.  So far, I have not seen any contract containing such a provision --- but, some may exist.

The practical reality is that if a supplier to a government purchaser does not make adjustments or open the kimono so to speak and engage in a discussion), then the government purchasing department may not renew a contract or may treat the supplier negatively in the future in a procurement situation.  As a result, even though the contract does not require price adjustments, suppliers may choose to make adjustments in order to keep the customer happy.

I will give you an example that may seem odd to a sales tax lawyer/accountant without full facts.  In one matter, a client provided a photocopier and toner to the government purchaser.  The cost of the photocopier was already a sunk cost.  However, the purchasing government department said they expected a price reduction because the supplier bought toner and the ORST cost of the toner was within the contract pricing.  As a result of HST, the supplier would no longer pay ORST on the toner and would recover the HST on the toner by way of an input tax credit.  The government department wanted a price adjustment to remove the ORST on the toner that would have been considered by the supplier in its initial pricing under the contract. The small price adjustment made sense to keep the purchasing manager happy.

With three of the matters I reviewed this week, due to the nature of the contract, there was no ORST savings to pass on to the government department.  That being said, the purchasing manager needed to be convinced and the client needed to provide detailed information about its pricing in order to prove to the purchasing manager that this was the case.  The dilemma was that in proving that there was no ORST cost embedded in the pricing, the government department needed to be provided with information that could be used in the future to negotiate price reductions.  in other words, the supplier needed to show too much of its internal information and supplier information.

Two clients priced their contract years ago so that some aspects of the contract were loss leaders and some aspects of the contract resulted in a profit.  The contracts as a whole resulted in a profit to the supplier.  In this exercise, the purchasing government department attempted to reduce the profit margins on the profitable aspects of the contract in order to achieve overall savings (to the detriment of the suppliers' bottom lines).

In all cases, the purchasing manager made it clear that he/she expected price adjustments and would communicate internally if no price adjustments were made.  Pressure was exerted and suppliers to the government were discouraged from maintaining the status quo and not "throwing the government a bone".

One reason for the pressure on the government side is that the Ontario government will start to pay HST on goods and services that were not subject to GST and/or ORST in the past.  Municipal governments do not receive all of the Ontario HST component back by way of a rebate (previously and under HST, 100% of the GST payable was refundable).

I would be pleased to discuss these issue that I am seeing with anyone in this situation.

On June 30, 2010 The Ontario Ministry of Revenue Cancels Ontario Retail Sales Vendor Permits

On June 30, 2010, the Ontario Ministry of Revenue released Tax Tip #15 "Vendor Permits" and informed all persons with vendor permits (registrations for Ontario retail sales tax purposes) that their vendor permits were being canceled on June 30, 2010.

The Ministry of Revenue states:

"On June 30, 2010, all current RST vendor accounts will be closed by the Ontario Ministry of Revenue. Vendors should not destroy their permits which should be kept along with other business records as required. For details on how long records should be kept see tax information bulletin Retention/Destruction of Books and Records on [the Ministry] website."

However, certain insurance providers are still in the retail sales tax system.  The Ministry indicates that they must re-register:

On July 1, 2010 all businesses primarily engaged in insurance activities will be automatically re-registered and a new vendor permit number will be issued. Tax return filing frequencies that are currently in place for RST returns will be maintained after June 30, 2010.

A door is closing and a new one is opening - HST.  This is a logistical step in the transition.

New Canada Revenue Agency Guides Help With New Housing Rebate Calculations

Tomorrow Is The Last Pre-HST Day, Do You Have Any Purchases to Make

Tomorrow is June 30, 2010, the last day before the sales tax world in Ontario and British Columbia changes.  Today you should ask yourself, CAN I MAKE A PURCHASE AND SAVE HST.

Consumers will be thinking about saving HST. The question that needs to be asked is what is not subject to Ontario retail sales tax, but will be subject to HST.  I cannot provide an all-inclusive list.  However, here are a few suggestions on what you might buy today:

  • land survey (I am doing this today believe it or not)
  • landscaping services
  • house cleaning services
  • painting services
  • if you sign an agreement of purchase and sale of a previously lived-in home, you may save the real estate commission
  • if you take possession and title of a newly built home before July 1, 2010, you save the HST
  • hair dressing/colouring services
  • manicure/pedicure
  • massage
  • dry cleaning
  • taking Rover to the vet
  • visiting the dentist for teeth whitening (not on my list - sorry Dr Jay)
  • ask a lawyer to draft a will or a pre-nuptial agreement
  • buy a domain name (is your name taken yet?)
  • fill up your home heating fuel tank
  • propane for the summer barbeque
  • clean the swimming pool
  • one last pre-HST Botox injection
  • one last work-out at the gym
  • energy-efficient home appliances are exempt from ORST
  • bicycles are exempt from ORST
  • custom computer software is exempt from ORST
  • subscription to Cosmo, Oprah, Mike Holmes or any magazine that interests you
  • notice in the newspaper about a garage sale, birth notice, death notice, in memoriam, etc.
  • ticket to see a play in a small local theater
  • ticket to a dinner theater
  • pre-paid funeral expenses/deposit on final resting place

What is on your list?

I will be writing another post tomorrow on the purchases that businesses have been waiting to make in order to save the unrecoverable ORST and recover HST by way of input tax credit.

Have You Picked "The Chosen One" in Accounts Payable?

One risk-management step that is often over-looked in a time of sales tax reform is selecting "The Chosen One" in accounts payable who is tasked with reviewing all incoming invoices to ensure that suppliers are properly charging sales taxes. 

When auditors arrive with their spreadsheets in hand, they conduct a (1) purchase side audit and (2) a sales side audit. During the purchase side audit, the auditor reviews a sample of incoming invoices to ensure that the business under audit has paid the right amount of sales tax on its business inputs.  Where a supplier to the business does not charge retail sales tax (ORST) or goods and services tax (GST), the auditor will assess the purchaser business - as it is allowed to do under the law.

Businesses can control this assessment risk by assigning the task of reviewing incoming invoices to a trained person - "The Chosen One".  This accounts payable employee will review each incoming invoice and either seek corrections from the supplier or make arrangements to self-assess the tax that is applicable, but not charged.

With the start of harmonized sales tax (HST) in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, this is a perfect time to ensure that someone is actively reviewing incoming invoices.  First, you will want to make sure that suppliers are no longer charging ORST on invoices for goods and services provided after June 30, 2010.  If a supplier still shows ORST or PST (provincial sales tax) or RST (retail sales tax) as being charged on the invoice, you will want to follow-up and ask for a revised invoice.  It must be clear that ORST/PST/RST is not being charged.  It may be that HST is being charged, but it must be clear so that an auditor is not confused.

On that point, HST is supposed to be a single combined tax.  The vendor is not supposed to separate the charges into GST and HST on the invoice (except where the supplies are subject to the recaptured ITC rules).  As a result, in Ontario, the invoice should identify 13% HST and no 5% GST and 8% HST separately.

In addition, "The Chosen One" should review incoming invoices to ensure that HST is being charged where applicable.  As a result , you will need to determine when you must pay HST (not just when you must charge HST).  You will have to understand the HST place of supply rules as they apply to purchases.

Businesses outside the HST Zone will also have to have "The Chosen One" selected and briefed on the HST place of supply rules.  You should expect to see some invoices arriving from the HST Zone that will automatically charge HST at the applicable provincial rate of the supplier because that will be the safe default position.  Communication will be important after the implementation of HST to correct these types of errors.  When in doubt regarding the application of HST, the purchaser may obtain an advance ruling from the GST/HST Directorate of the Canada Border Services Agency.

Finally, non-residents of Canada that purchase goods/property and/or services from Canadian businesses also need to have "The Chosen One".  Many Canadian businesses have adjusted their billing systems with the implementation of HST.  There will be situations where previously zero-rated supplies (GST charged at 0%) will default in the computer systems to 12%, 13% or 15% HST depending on the location of the supplier.  A quick call to the supplier to notify them of the change would be in order so that the computer errors can be corrected.

Continue Reading...

Tip: 3 Days Left in Pre-HST World: Do Some File Cleaning

Today is June 28, 2010 and there are only three more days left in pre-HST Ontario/BC.  Those in the service industry (where files are maintained for clients) should bill for services rendered before July 1, 2010.  Services rendered before July 1, 2010 are not subject to harmonized sales tax ("HST").  In addition, many services are not subject to Ontario retail sales tax ("ORST") - only "taxable services" as defined in the Retail Sales Tax Act (Ontario) are subject to ORST in Ontario.

I offer this advice to help not confuse an auditor - close any dormant files on Monday-Wednesday  (June 28-30, 2010) (pre-HST period).  Send those files to records (and you will not have to pay HST on the service fee of the moving company if the service is performed before July 1).  Hire a temporary worker to provide assistance in the pre-HST period and save the HST.  Both GST and HST are payable of the services provided by temporary employees services.  If your employee (that is, he or she is on your payroll and is not a third party service provider or employed by a third party service provider) provides the assistance in closing the files in the computerized system and putting the files in boxes, then his/her employment related services are not subject to wither GST/HST.

You will both clean your office and save the HST at the same time.  More importantly, you will have documentation to show that the files were closed prior to HST.  You will have additional proof to give an auditor that you took steps to make a clear division for the purposes of the application of the HST transition rules. The easier you make it for the auditor, the easier you make it for yourself.

In addition, if that client comes back and needs more work performed by you post-HST, you can open a new file, gather the new information for your HST decision tree and start fresh (and start charging HST where applicable).

The Toronto Post-G20 Clean Up and HST

As many businesses in Ontario know, there was damage in downtown Toronto that resulted from the actions of a few protesters during the week-end of July 26-27.  Here are a few tips about the pre- and post- harmonized sales tax (HST) world.

  • If a window is purchased in the pre-HST period at a retailer of glass, then goods and services tax (GST) and Ontario retail sales tax (ORST) will apply.
  • If a window is purchased on an installed basis during the pre-HST period, GST will apply, but ORST will not apply.  ORST will be incorporated into the cost of the installed window as it will be a cost of the supplier of the installed window.
  • If a window is purchased pre-HST or installed pre-HST, then the ORST cost (whether paid to the retailer or indirectly to the installer), the ORST is not recoverable.
  • If the window is purchased or installed post-HST (on or after July 1, 2010), then GST and HST would apply.
  • If a clean-up crew is hired to remove painted slogans in the pre-HST period, GST would apply, but ORST will not apply.
  • If a clean-up crew is hired to remove painted slogans in the post-HST period, GST and HST will  apply.
  • If the retailer is a store and engaged in commercial activities, they would be entitled to claim a full input tax credit to recover any GST/HST.
  • If the business is a bank, it is unlikely that the bank may claim an input tax credit and recover GST/HST paid to repair the damage.
  • If an insurance company enters into the contract with the window installer, it is unlikely that the insurance company will be entitled to recover the GST/HST because the sale of insurance policies is an exempt financial service. [Note: have the business buy the window and claim the in input tax credit]
  • If the Ontario provincial police buy a new car pre-HST, GST may not apply if the OPP are on the list of Ontario government departments (the federal government cannot charge tax of the provincial government).
  • If the Ontario provincial police buy a new police car post-HST, they must pay GST and HST.  The current rules do not provide rebates for provincial government departments.
  • If the Toronto police buy a new car pre-HST, they must pay GST and ORST, but would get a 100% rebate of the GST portion (not the ORST portion).
  • If the Toronto police buy a new car post-HST, they must pay GST and HST and will be entitled to claim the municipal PSB rebate to recover a large portion (not all) of the GST/HST paid.

I do not intend to suggest that businesses should wait. I am merely highlighting the different results caused by the tax reform.

Service Providers That Make Presentations May Have to Rethink Venue

There are many types of service providers who make presentations to audiences.  Sometimes the audience is the public (e.g., business people who want to learn how to benefit from Facebook). Sometimes the audience is employees a a particular company (e.g., a law firm brings in a marketing guru t talk about business and sales plans, a nursing home operator brings in service providers to lecture bout ways to improve delivery of services, a bank brings in a security expert to talk to employees in a lecture hall, etc.).

The general HST place of supply rules may not apply to these types of transactions.  There is a special HST place of supply rule for services in connection with a location specific event. 

Section 28 of the New Harmonized Value-added Tax System Regulations provides:

"A supply of a service in relation to a performance, athletic or competitive event, festival, ceremony, conference, or similar event is made  in a province if the service is to be performed primarily at the location of the event in the province."

This means that if a service provider makes supplies of such services, they would charge HST at the rate of 13% if the event is held in Ontario (assuming the  50%"primarily" test is satisfied). if a service provider makes supplies of such services, they would charge HST at the rate of 12% if the event is held in British Columbia (assuming the  50%"primarily" test is satisfied). Similarly, if a service provider makes supplies of such services, they would not charge HST (but would charge GST) if the event is held in Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba or PEI.

The "primarily" test would be most often applicable if the person providing the service is from a different province than the province in which the event occurs.  If an Alberta-based marketing guru gives a presentation in Ontario, it is possible that HST would not apply to his/her speakers fee.  Based on my own experience giving presentations, it takes a significant amount of time to prepare the presentation and a short amount of time to deliver a presentation.  Based on my experience, out-of-HST province service providers may be able to demonstrate that HST is not applicable on a case-by-case basis.  that being said, if a service provider does not charge HST in relation to services provided in an HST province, they should maintain documentation regarding that decision.

I will predict that border cities (that is, cities on the border between an HST province and a non-HST province) will see a decrease in conferences.  Many conferences previously held in places like Ottawa will move to alternatives, such as Gatineau, Quebec.

Finally, MUSH sector and exempt businesses will consider venues for corporate events and internal training.  if an entity cannot claim full input tax credits and recover HST, if may be less expensive to hold events outside HST provinces.  That being said, the travel costs and costs associated with being away from the office might outweigh the HST costs.  That being said, if Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas offers great deals, we may see more winter/spring events outside HST provinces.  That being said, the Canada Revenue Agency might take a close look at taxable employee benefits.

Canada Border Services Agency Publishes Fact Sheet on HST & Imports

The Canada Border Services Agency has published a Fact Sheet entitled "The Canada Border Services Agency's Implementation of the Ontario and British Columbia Harmonized Sales Tax" (June 2010), which sets out some of information importers should know about HST.

In short, HST will be applied in respect of non-commercial goods (a.k.a things individuals import for personal use).  The "official definition of a "non-commercial good" is: "Non-commercial goods" means "all goods, other than goods imported into Canada for sale, or for any commercial, industrial, occupational, institutional, or other like use."

Beginning July 1, 2010, the importation into Canada of non-commercial goods by or for a consumer that is a resident of Ontario or British Columbia, will be subject to the HST. The HST will apply to non-commercial goods destined for Ontario and British Columbia, regardless of where the goods enter into Canada. NOTE: Goods destined for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland/Labrador are also subject to HST.

MORE IMPORTANTLY - As is the case today, the provincial component of the HST will not generally apply to commercial goods that are imported by an HST registrant for consumption, use or supply exclusively in the course of the commercial activities of the registrant.

For more information, please see the Fact Sheet.

Tip on Pre-HST Billings

Many service providers (such as lawyers, accountants, marketing gurus, consultants, advisors, custom computer  software programmers, certain graphic designers, etc.) do not currently charge Ontario retail sales tax (ORST) on their services.  Starting on July 1, 2010, these service providers must charge harmonized sales tax (HST).

The HST transition rules provide that if services are commenced prior to July 1, 2010 and continue after July 1, 2010, the supplier will be required to allocate between the pre-HST period and post-HST period and not charge HST on the pre-HST period and charge HST on the post-HST period. An allocation is required (except if 90% or more of the services are provided prior to July 1, 2010).

Suppliers need to maintain evidence to provide to Canada Revenue Agency auditors.  While it is incorrect to say that all auditors are difficult idiots, I often tell clients to assume that such an auditor will show up on their doorstep in the future to conduct an audit.  What evidence and documentation are you going to have to prove your point to the auditor?  With respect to not charging HST on pre-July 1, 2010 supplies of services, what evidence are you going to be able to present?

Good documentation will include docket entries, time sheets, employee punch cards, etc.  What will also be helpful are invoices issued in June 2010 billing the client for pre-July 1, 2010 services that have been performed.  I often refer to this as "blowing out your WIP (work in progress).  If you issue a bill and it is recorded in your computer system prior to July 1, 2010, it must be that the the services recorded as being provided before July 1, 2010 were actually provided. Note that if you are billing in May/June 2010 for services to be rendered on or after July 1, 2010, HST will be applicable.

I have one caveat that I have to highlight - you need to ask whether it is likely your client will pay the invoice. If a supplier issues an invoice prior to July 1, 2010 and must charge GST (that is, the supply is not zero-rated or exempt), the supplier will be required to remit the GST to the Receiver General of Canada with the GST/HST return for the reporting period in which the invoice is issued (e.g., June 2010).  If the recipient does not pay the GST by the GST/HST return filing deadline, the supplier still must remit the GST.  As a result, there can be a cash flow issue.

If a supplier cannot issue an invoice, we are recommending a "WIP freeze".  This means that the supplier would generate a document that would evidence the pre-July 1, 2010 work in progress.  Depending on the circumstances, the document may evidence the number of hours worked and/or the value of the services rendered prior to July 1, 2010.  The document will need to be supported by some verifiable data (e.g. a date stamped printout of computerized records). The method must be able to withstand scrutiny and be reasonable in the circumstances.  What is communicated (and the words used) may be important as auditors assessment radar is often triggered by the words taxpayers use.

I would be pleased to provide services to help you generate evidence of the provision of pre-HST services.

I should also mention that it is better to do generate the evidence now as an employee may not be available at the time the auditor arrives. In other words, it is sometimes difficult to substantiate facts at a later point in time.

June Billings & HST Transition Rules

I was speaking with a service provider (marketing advisory services) in Ontario the other day about her June 2010 billings.  She said that she will be sending out invoices on June 15, 2010 in respect of services to be provided between July 1, 2010 - July 31, 2010.  She does not currently charge Ontario retail sales tax on her advisory services.  She asked me whether she is required to charge Ontario harmonized sales tax (HST).

The answer is yes (assuming the client being billed is located in the province of Ontario).  ABC Co. would charge GST on her marketing advisory services.  She would remit the GST with her GST return for the period June 1, 2010-June 30, 2010 (she is a monthly filer).

She would also add HST to the invoices.  However, she would remit the HST collected with the GST/HST return for the post-HST implementation period being her July 1-July 31, 2010 GST/HST return, which is due at the end of August 2010. She does not include the HST in the GST/HST return that she files in July even though the HST was invoiced in June 2010.

Yes, there is an unusual delay in the remittance of the HST.  This is because the HST must go into the HST pot so that it can be properly allocated to the HST Zone provinces (including Ontario).  If the HST is remitted to the Government of Canada in July, Premier McGuinty does not get any of the money.  Also, the supplier would be making a mistake and may be penalized at the time of an audit.

We Now Have Place of Supply Regulations And More

In the June 9, 2010 Canada Gazette, the final HST place of supply regulations are published as SOR/2010-117 - now called "New Harmonized Value-added Tax System Regulations". Also included in the regulations are the HST anti-avoidance rules (Part 2), the HST transition rules (part 3), repeal of Place of Supply (GST/HST Regulations (Part 4) and application rules (Part 5).

It is about time that the nuts and bolts of the HST law is being made available to businesses in harmonized provinces. However, much is still missing, such as the real property rules and transition rules for builders of residential complexes. 

Ontario Massage Therapists May Learn About HST Consequences From BC

The Winnipeg Press Press (an unlikely resource for HST information) reports in an article entitled "B.C. massage therapists will have to charge HST on chronic disease patients" that massage therapists must charge HST on massage services to chronic pain patients, even if they have a doctor's note and the services are medically necessary. There are many human conditions that require massage therapy as a medical treatment.

The article states:

The NDP says people in B.C. who suffer from chronic diseases and need massage therapy are the latest to be hit by the harmonized sales tax.

Health critic Adrian Dix says massage therapists who treat people with diseases such as multiple sclerosis will have to charge their patients the HST, pushing treatment costs toward $100 an hour.

He says the government is imposing the tax despite warnings from patients and health care professionals that it hurt those needing the treatment for chronic illness.

However, Finance Minister Colin Hansen says a health profession can't be exempted from federal tax unless it's regulated in at least five provinces, and massage therapists are only regulated in three — Ontario, Newfoundland and British Columbia.

He says the government is providing a HST credit for low and modest income people as well as increasing the basic personal amount tax credit.

Meanwhile, organizers of an anti-HST petition say they've now signed up 15 per cent of registered voters in all but five of B.C.'s 85 ridings, five per cent more than the minimum needed for the petition to succeed in getting either a vote in the legislature or a referendum.

This gap in the tax system will cost insurance companies and individuals.  If you have a doctor's note, you may be reimbursed under some health insurance policies for the massage services (but, then again, doctor's may charge you for a note to provide to your insurance company (also subject to HST).  If you do not have insurance coverage for the massage services, then it is a taxable health care costs to individuals (on top of employer health taxes, fair share health levies, insurance premiums, taxes on insurance premiums, etc.).

The good news is that if the massage therapy is provided by a registered nurse, a registered nursing assistant, a licensed or registered practical nurse, it will be exempt from HST.

It is also important to distinguish between massage (which is taxable) and chiropractic services (exempt) and physiotherapy  services (exempt). So, it may be a characterization problem for some chronic pain patients.

The HST is Coming, The HST is Coming

Kevin Marron has written a helpful article about harmonized sales tax in "The Canadian Lawyer" magazine entitled "The HST is Coming, The HST is Coming".  I am not just saying it is a good article because I am quoted in the article.  My good friend, Terry Barnett, is also quoted.

Please note that I will be giving a presentation on HST for lawyers with David Schlessinger of KPMG LLP on June 23, 2010, which is being presented by the Law Society of Upper Canada.  Last I heard, over 283 people have signed up to listen.

Graphic Designers in Ontario/BC Have HST Characterisation of Supply Questions

Graphic Designers have experienced Ontario retail sales tax issues for the last 4-5 years as auditors have taken the position that their services are actually "taxable services".  As a result of the confusion, the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (Ontario) consulted with the Ontario Ministry of Finance and prepared materials for members.  A number of charts/continuums were prepared by the Association to provide to the Ontario Ministry of Finance to demonstrate that there are many different types of graphic design services.  The Association's tools set out information for 8 categories of graphic designers (categories for the purposes of communication with Ontario):

  • exhibit graphic design
  • environmental/architecture graphic design
  • editorial graphic design
  • identity graphic design/branding
  • web design/new media
  • package graphic design
  • advertising graphic design
  • corporate communication/promotional material graphic design

After the creation of these documents, the Ontario Ministry of Revenue released RST Guide 520 "Graphic Designers", in which Ontario recognized and provided guidance regarding the Ontario retail sales tax consequences for various categories of graphic design services.

British Columbia issued SST Bulletin 128 for graphic designers in British Columbia (before the Ontario Guide).

With harmonized sales tax (HST), graphic designers will continue to have serious characterization issues.  The HST place of supply rules are based upon (divided into categories) based on the characterization of the supply.  FOR HST PURPOSES, THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT PLACE OF SUPPLY RULES THAT MAY APPLY FOR GRAPHIC DESIGNERS BASED ON WHAT TYPE OF GRAPHIC DESIGNER SERVICES/DELIVERABLES THEY PROVIDE.

Some graphic designers would apply the general HST place of supply rules for services.  Some graphic designers would apply the HST place of supply rules for services in respect of real property.  Some graphic designers would apply the HST place of supply rules for services in respect of tangible personal property. Some graphic designers would apply the HST place of supply rules for services in respect of photographic -related goods.  Some graphic designers would apply the HST place of supply rules for computer-related services.  Some graphic designers would apply the HST place of supply rules for intangible property. Some graphic designers would apply the HST place of supply rules for intangible property in respect of real property. Some graphic designers would apply the HST place of supply rules for intangible property in respect of tangible personal property. Some graphic designers may apply a combination of HST place of supply rules.

Any graphic designer in Ontario who does not charge the 13% HST rate in Ontario will have to justify not charging the 8% HST portion.  The same holds true for graphic designers in British Columbia if they do not charge the 7% HST portion.  Yes, both graphic designers in Ontario and British Colombia may compete with U.S.-based graphic designers who are not charging HST. That is another issue altogether. 

Graphic designers who sell only to businesses/clients/consumers in their province will not have place of supply issues as they will charge their provincial are on all invoices.  The graphic designers who have businesses/clients/consumers in more than one province will have to characterize their services/deliverables and apply the correct place of supply rule.  I would be pleased to help.

As at June 5, 2010 the Final HST Place of Supply Rules Have Not Been Promulgated

I have been watching the Department of Finance web-site and, to date, the final version of the HST Place of Supply Rules Regulations have not been promulgated.  We are 25 days away from the implementation date for HST in Ontario and British Columbia and we do not have the final version of the applicable rules.  How is this easier for businesses?  Businesses are the ones who will be assessed by Canada Revenue Agency auditors for mistakes.  It will be an penalty on businesses.

On April 30, 2010, the Department of Finance issued draft Regulations in Respect of the Place of Supply of Property and Services for public comment.

On June 3, 2010, the Canada Revenue Agency reissued its Technical Information Bulletin 103 (June 2010) on "Place of Supply Rules for Determining Whether a Supply is Made in a Province".

Canada Revenue Agency Reissues Revised Technical Information Bulletin 103 Regarding HST Place of Supply Rules

On June 3, 2010, the Canada Revenue Agency reissued a revised version of Technical Information Bulletin 103 "Place of Supply Rules for Determining Whether a Supply is Made in a Province".

This Technical Information Bulletin is 53 pages in length.  It has been updated to reflect changes to the HST place of supply rules in the draft regulations (drafted after the first release of the HST place of supply rules in February 2010). It contains 127 examples to assist businesses.  Some of the examples are helpful and others do not reflect common situations that businesses will experience.  That being said, the Canada Revenue Agency has released a document that all businesses should read as soon as possible.  If a business cannot find the answer in the Technical Information Bulletin, they should seek a ruling from the Canada Revenue Agency.

 

Consumer To Do List - HST is Coming

I want to share with you the list I made for myself to save HST:

  • book an appointment with Jie to save the HST on a hair cut (call beginning of June for late June appointment - also book summer highlights)
  • Late Spring Cleaning - take clothes to dry cleaners in June to save HST
  • Take dog to vet (save HST)
  • Call Electrician
  • Repair facets (save HST)
  • Arrange for Structural Engineer to take another set of readings (don't get me started on this one)
  • Ask husband to vacuum (okay, I am already saving the HST on this one).

What is on your list?

Gift Certificates and Gift Cards and GST/HST

Yesterday, I was asked a question about gift certificates.  A vendor is selling gift certificates in June for use in June 2010 or on or after July 1, 2010.  The question is what happens for GST/HST/ORST purposes when one sells the gift certificate and when one redeems the gift certificate for goods/services.

Before I go too far, it is important to pin-point what I mean when I say "gift certificates" (or rather what the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) thinks is a gift certificate).  In CRA Policy Statement P-202 "Gift Certificates", the CRA states:

A gift certificate is a "device" (e.g. voucher, receipt, ticket) which,

1) has a stated monetary value,

2) can be redeemed on the purchase of property or a service from a particular supplier; that is, the supplier agrees to accept the device as consideration, or a part hereof, in respect of the purchase of property or a service,

3) for which consideration is given in the amount of the stated value, and

4) which has no intrinsic value.

The determination of whether property, which otherwise would qualify as a gift certificate, has an intrinsic value will require a certain degree of judgment on the part of departmental officials applying this policy. Generally, the value inherent in the property will be evident from the circumstances surrounding its sale. If the purchase of the property is promoted as something more than a device which may be used as a partial payment towards a future purchase, the possibility that the property has value in itself, should be examined.

Pursuant to section 181.2 of the Excise Tax Act (Canada) (the "GST/HST Legislation), the issuance or sale of a gift certificate for consideration (e.g., money) shall be deemed not to be a supply and, when given as consideration for a supply of property or a service, the gift certificate shall be deemed to be money. 

This means that when a vendor sells or issues a gift certificate, no GST or HST is payable because the GST/HST Legislation says no supply has occurred.  If there is no supply, there is no event that results in the application of GST/HST. 

HOWEVER, when a person uses that gift certificate to purchase goods and/or services, the gift certificate is money. The redemption of the gift card for goods or services is a supply for GST/HST purposes.  If the supply (e.g., a DVD) is a taxable supply and, therefore GST/HST is collectible, then the gift certificate should be used to pay the purchase price plus GST/HST.  In other words, a the time of the supply that is a purchase of goods and/or services is the moment when the vendor needs to ask about GST/HST consequences and charge the correct amount of GST/HST/

This is important because I also saw a flyer yesterday for the sale of gift cards in June 2010 to save HST.  This flyer was wrong in the context of what was being sold and when. A vendor would collect (let's say $100 in cash) for a $100 gift certificate in June 2010.  When the consumer redeems the gift card for services (or property), the vendor will determine whether to charge GST and/or HST on what is purchased.  If the gift card is redeemed in June 2010, then the vendor would collect GST (and possibly ORST) in respect of the purchase if the supply is in Ontario.  If the gift card is redeemed on or after July 1, 2010, then the vendor would collect GST and HST if the supply in in an HST province.

For example, if the gift card is for a spa treatment (e.g., a manicure), if the services take place in June 2010, the vendor would charge for the manicure ($20) and charge GST ($1).  If the gift card was for $25, the vendor would apply $21 against the gift card and the person could keep the $4 credit for the next visit or could take the cash.

If the manicure takes place in July 2010, then the vendor would charge $20 for the manicure, $1 GST and $1.60 HST (assuming the manicure services were provided to an individual in Ontario).  In July 2010, the vendor would apply the $22.60 against the gift card and the individual would have $2.40 remaining.

Even though there isn't a similar explicit rule for Ontario retail sales tax purposes, Ontario has the following statement on an official web-site:

Consumer Alert – Gift Cards - Retailers Charging Sales Taxes

Retailers must not charge consumers provincial Retail Sales Tax (RST) and/or federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) when buying gift cards.

The Ministry of Consumer Services advises consumers to check their gift card receipts to ensure they are not charged sales taxes when buying gift cards.

Sales taxes should only be applied on goods or services when purchased using the gift card as the payment option.

Based on this official statement, it appears that the position of the province of Ontario is that Ontario retail sales tax is not collectible at the time of a sale or issuance of a gift certificate/gift card.

Tim Hudak Continues to Talk About HST Effects on Seniors and Others in Question Period

On June 1, 2010, Leader of the Opposition, Tim Hudak and Joyce Savoline, MPP continued to question the McGuinty Liberal Government about HST.  Their focus was senior citizens and condo owners.

Here are some of the excerpts from the questions and the answers (which, in my view, do not respond to the questions asked):

Question:

Mr. Tim Hudak: Back to the Acting Premier: Not only are people in the Yellow Shirt Brigade and other seniors across the province losing access to key ER services like in Fort Erie and Port Colborne, they're worried about the impact of the HST in one month's time. The HST greedy tax grab kicks in on Canada Day. Today marks the beginning of Seniors' Month, and how is Dalton McGuinty celebrating? Well, not in the Legislature today. He's interested in punishing seniors. The Premier is putting a new tax on mutual funds, which means less income in retirement. He's putting a new tax on condo fees, 8% on gas for their cars, snow removal, lawn care, home repairs, Internet, entertainment etc.

Why is the Premier closing down ER services and also raising the taxes on seniors in their retirement?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know my colleague is going to want to comment on the HST.

I want to just make a comment, first of all, about what we have done for seniors, because the member opposite is saying that this government has not paid attention to the needs of seniors, and that is not true.

The most recent example that this party is not supportive of the initiatives we've put in place to help seniors is that they are in opposition to reducing the price of generic drugs. We are working very hard to make sure that seniors get the medications they need at a price that's reasonable, and the party opposite is not supportive of that.

On top of creating 8,000 new long-term-care beds, creating a new Ontario sales tax for seniors, doubling the Ontario home property tax for seniors, we have got a basket of measures to support seniors. The party opposite has not supported any one of those.

Question:

Mr. Tim Hudak: The minister asks what you've done to seniors. Well, Minister, you've closed the ERs for seniors in Niagara. You're bent on closing down community pharmacies and interrupting that dependent relationship between seniors and their community pharmacists. Now you're putting in smart meters that say to seniors, who have fought in the wars, who helped us through the Depression, who have built this great province, "Well, too bad. Wash your clothes at 11 p.m. Do your dishes at 10 p.m. We don't care."

The PC Party does not share that view, and we will continue to stand up and fight for seniors in this province.

What happens on Canada Day? A new tax on home heating, energy conservation retrofits, taking the dog or cat to the vet, cable, haircuts, vitamins. How much more can seniors take in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario? Won't the minister please stand up and say you're not going to go through with this massive tax-

Answer:

Hon. John Wilkinson: Millions of seniors and millions of Ontarians are going to receive billions of dollars over the next year courtesy of our agreement with the federal government. The PC Party voted against that. On July 1, seniors will receive their enhanced property tax credit. We're doubling that credit, a credit that you voted against in the first place, and you voted against the doubling. That is for seniors. And then there are many seniors who, in August, will start to qualify for the new Ontario HST rebate that your party voted against.

Let's make sure the seniors know the whole story on this file. Yes, indeed, we are reforming our tax system. This side of the House has a plan to create 600,000 more jobs in this province, and your side of the House doesn't. Seniors rely on their public services. It requires a vibrant economy, an economy like Ontario leading Canada and leading in the world-

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Tim Hudak and Lisa MacLeod Talk About HST Effects in Question Period

On Monday, May 31, 2010, Lisa MacLeod, MPP invited me to attend Question Period at the Ontario Legislature.  I had the opportunity to hear the questions being asked by the Leader of the Opposition, Tim Hudak and Lisa MacLeod, MPP and the Revenue Critic for the Progressive Conservative Caucus at Queen's Park and other Conservative MPPs (and Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan's responses)

Here are some excerpts of the exchanges (the heckling is cut out of this transcript):

Question:

Mr. Tim Hudak:  A question to the Acting Premier: As you know, Dalton McGuinty is going to force Ontario families to celebrate Canada Day with a massive new HST hike on everything. Families will also remember, as they're paying Dalton McGuinty's new greedy tax grab, that back in 2003 Dalton McGuinty was so eager to convince people he was not another tax-and-spend Liberal that he staged a photo op where he signed a promise not to raise taxes on families without their explicit consent, but then he increased taxes across the board anyway, including his massive health tax hike. I ask you, Acting Premier, why did Dalton McGuinty tell families something that he definitely is not?

Answer:
Hon. Dwight Duncan: This government has made strategic investments in health care and education and was re-elected in 2007 on the basis of those kinds of undertakings. Unlike the member opposite, we don't think the status quo is good enough. We are taking a tax change that will not raise taxes but overall will reduce taxes for some 93% of Ontarians. That's why Jack Mintz, that leader's expert witness at last year's budget hearings, says it's absolutely the best thing we could have done. That leader and his party supported it. That leader and his federal counterparts, Mr. Flaherty, Mr. Baird, Mr. Clement-all of them support this. They recognize, as that member used to recognize, that-
 

 

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Are Ontario Aboriginal Peoples Closer to a Point of Sale Exemption?

In Question Period in the Ontario Legislature on May 31, 2010 (I was in attendance), a liberal MPP threw a soft-ball question to a colleague about the harmonized sales tax (HST) point of sale rebate for aboriginal peoples of Ontario. The Minister responded that on May 27, 2010 (not sure this is the correct date), a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the McGuinty Government and certain aboriginal peoples.

The answer provided during Question Period suggested that Ontario was waiting for a response from Ottawa.  However, one must look at the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement (CITCA) to see that Ontario is responsible for point of sale rebates/exemptions. In other words, the McGuinty Government has the right under the CITCA Agreement to say that they want certain point of sale rebates (presumably for tax policy reasons).

Here are the provisions in the CITCA relating to point of sale rebates:

Annex “B”

Provincial Flexibility in respect of Rebates

    Definitions

  1. Unless otherwise defined in this Annex, terms used in this Annex have the same meaning as in the Agreement to which this Annex is attached. For the purposes of this Annex, the following terms have the following meanings:

    “GST Base” in respect of the Province for a calendar year means the estimated tax base under the harmonized sales taxes for the Province in the calendar year, as determined by Finance (Canada) pursuant to Formula D of Annex “A” (referred to in that Annex as “PROVBASEt”).

    “PVAT-POS Rebate”, in respect of a province, and in relation to a taxable supply of property or a service made in the province, means the provincial rebate under an Act of the Legislature of the province paid to, or credited at the time of supply in favour of, the recipient of the taxable supply, the amount of which the supplier is permitted to deduct in computing the supplier’s net tax under Part IX of the Excise Tax Act.

  2. Provincial Point-of-Sale Rebates

  3. The Parties agree that a supply of property or a service may be eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province if:
    • (a)   subject to the reasonable capacity of the Minister of National Revenue to administer and enforce such a PVAT-POS Rebate and subject to the reasonable capacity of businesses to comply with such a PVAT-POS Rebate, the definition of the property or service is used in the Canadian System of National Accounts and sufficient data is available from that system to determine the amount of expenditure in the Province attributable to the supply of that property or service; or
    • (b)    other data sources, definitions and methodologies mutually agreed upon between the Parties can be used to determine the amount of expenditure in the Province attributable to the supply of that property or service.
  4. Where the Province advises Canada of its desire to designate particular property or services as items eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province effective on and from a particular day, the Parties agree that the Province will be permitted to designate those property and services as such items if the total value, as determined by Finance (Canada) in consultation with the Province, of all such items that would be eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province immediately after the particular day (including the particular property or services) and that were supplied in the Province during the last calendar year for which the GST Base in respect of the Province has been determined, in accordance with Annex “A”, does not exceed 5% of that GST Base.
  5. If a condition under clause 2 in respect of data or definitions is not met, any cost involved in obtaining or establishing such data or definitions for the purpose of achieving the mutual agreement of the Parties referred to in that clause will be the sole responsibility of the Province. If obtaining or establishing such data or definitions benefits the Province and another participating province, the Province may enter into a separate agreement with the other participating province in respect of sharing, between the Province and the other participating province, the cost involved in obtaining or establishing such data or definitions.
  6. On and from the Implementation Date, subject to the definitions mutually agreed upon between the Parties, the Parties agree that in general terms the items eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province will be, unless such items are removed in accordance with the Agreement:
    • (a)   books;
    • (b)   children’s clothing and footwear;
    • (c)   children’s diapers;
    • (d)   children’s car seats and car booster seats;
    • (e)   feminine hygiene products;
    • (f)   printed newspapers;
    • (g)   prepared food and beverages sold for a total consideration of $4 or less; and
    • (h)   other property or service proposed from time to time by the Province that may, in accordance with the Agreement, become property or service eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province.
  7. Unless otherwise mutually agreed upon between the Parties, where an item that the Province proposes to be eligible for a PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of the Province is of the same class or kind as an existing item that is subject to an existing PVAT-POS Rebate in respect of another province, the Province agrees that the proposed item will have the same definition as the existing definition in respect of the existing item.

****

If under the Indian Act (Canada) and signed treaties with aboriginal peoples in Ontario, aboriginal peoples do not pay sales taxes (and other forms of taxes), then the point of sale rebate should not be factored into the 5% threshold.

This should be a non-issue for Ontario.  If the point of sale rebate is not granted for aboriginal off-reserve purchases (to be used on the reserve), then it would be McGuinty's lack of commitment to this point of sale exemption.

Are Ontario aboriginal peoples closer to a point of sale rebate - yes and no.

HST Means No More ORST Purchase Exemption Certificates

I received the following question today:

I am a furniture manufacturer who works with interior designers.  When I invoice, if an item is being re-sold by the designer then I do not invoice the Ontario retail sales tax (ORST).  The designer will invoice ORST directly to the client. How will this change with the HST?  Will my clients be exempt if they are re-selling an item?   Also, when I purchase materials for manufacture many items such as wood, screws glue etc are PST exempt when I purchase them and get added into the cost once sold to the customer?  How will the HST deal with this?

The answer is that the furniture manufacturer will be required to charge HST when he/she sells to the interior designer.  The interior designer is no longer entitled to provide an ORST purchase exemption certificate to be exempted from payment of sales tax.  The interior designer will pay the GST/HST and claim an input tax credit (if he/she is registered for GST/HST purposes.  The interior designer will charge the final consumer GST/HST.

In addition, the furniture manufacturer will no longer purchase his/her inputs using an ORST purchase exemption certificate.  In other words, the furniture manufacturer must pay GST/HST on all materials and components used in the manufacture of the furniture.  The furniture manufacturer would be entitled to claim an input tax credit if he/she is registered for GST/HST purposes.

This will result in cost flow issues for both the manufacturer and the interior designer (the two businesses in the example).  The businesses will have to fund the GST/HST portion when paying invoices and will be able to claim input tax credits (and offset GST/HST collected) on their GST/HST returns for the period during which the supply occurred.  I am told that some businesses may need to increase their lines of credit in order to fund the HST component that was previously ORST exempt by virtue of the purchase exemption certificate.

To be clear, on July 1, 2010, purchase exemption certificates will be invalid for purchases after July 1, 2010.  The days of the sales tax relief will over gone for good.  The Canada Revenue Agency auditors will be auditing the entire supply chain to make sure that GST/HST was paid at each step in the supply chain.

June Transactions May Limit Unrecoverable Sales Taxes

June 2010 may see an increase in last minute reorganizations by MUSH sector entities wishing to minimize unrecoverable harmonized sales tax (HST).  Here is a real life example with numbers. 

Example: A hospital needs to undertake a reorganization in order to remove unrecoverable HST in the current structure (the corporate structure has employees in one entity and that entity provides the services of the employees of that entity to other separate legal entities in the corporate structure, which results in GST being payable on the inter-company payments).

Let's say that the inter-company services of workers fees is $1,000,000 per year.  For the annual period July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, the GST payment would have been $50,000 and the hospital authority would have recovered 87% (or $43,500) by way of a MUSH sector rebate.  The unrecoverable GST would have been $6,500.

For the period July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, the same $1,000,000 inter-company fee for services would result in $50,000 in GST and $80,000 in HST (Ontario).  The MUSH sector rebate would be $43,500 of the GST portion and $66,400 of the HST portion (for Ontario) (and in BC it would be $70,000 in HST and a MUSH sector rebate of $40,600).  As a result, the unrecoverable combined GST/HST would be $20,100 (6,500 + $13,600).

The additional $13,600 will add up over time.  As a result, a reorganization is necessary based on this HST analysis and other considerations. 

When should the reorganization occur?  Let's assume that the fair market value of the assets involved in the reorganization is $10,000,000.  If the transaction is completed before July 1, 2010, the hospital entities in the structure would save $136,000 in unrecoverable HST.  Since the structure involves a number of charities, the unrecoverable HST is actually higher because the MUSH sector rebate for charities is 82%.  If you do the math, it makes sense to complete reorganizations before July 1, 2010.

As a result, it would be prudent for MUSH sector entities (which cannot recover GST/HST by way of input tax credits) to consider whether they should reorganize their structure in order not to "bleed" money after HST.  MUSH sector entities need all the money in their cash flow.

Ontario Government and BC Government May Not Follow HST Transition Rules & Give Selves Sale Tax Holiday

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has issued GST/HST Info Sheet GI-073 "Ontario and British Columbia: Transition to the Harmonized Sales Tax - Payment of the GST/HST by Ontario and B.C. Government Entities (May 2010) and the examples provided put the government entities in Appendix A outside the HST transition rules. So, I have to warn suppliers to the Appendix A government entities to be careful because CRA auditors may try to apply the transition rules.  I find it funny and sad that the Governments do not follow their own transition rules to save the HST (when businesses and consumers do not get the same breaks).

Example 3 in GI 073 provides as follows:

In may 2010, an Ontario ministry, which is listed on schedule A to the RTA, orders and pays for furniture, but the furniture will not be delivered and ownership will not be transferred to the Ontario ministry until August 2010.  The furniture is acquired in the name of the Province and the Ontario ministry provides a Crown funds exemption request or certification clause to the supplier.

Because the Ontario ministry is listed on Schedule A to the RTA, and the consideration for the supply of the furniture is paid before July 1, 2010, the Ontario ministry will continue to claim an exemption from GST/HST.  Therefore, the supplier does not charge GST/HST on the consideration for the supply of the furniture to the Ontario ministry.  In this case, the supplier may accept the Ontario ministry's Crown funds exemption request or certification clause requesting relief from both the GST and the HST as the consideration for the supply was paid before July 1, 2010.

The HST transition rules applicable to everyone else were released on October 14, 2009. The HST transition rule for tangible personal property (goods) provided that if tangible personal property was purchased after May 1, 2010 and consideration was paid between May 1, 2010 and July 1, 2010 and the tangible personal property was delivered on or after July 1, 2010, HST would be applicable.  To save the HST, the tangible personal property would have to be purchased before May 1, 2010 and the consideration paid before May 1, 2010. As a result, the Ontario and B.C. Governments have beneficial treatment not available to others. 

The other interesting issue relating to Example 3 is that Ontario retail sales tax or B.C. social service tax would be payable if the furniture had been delivered before July 1, 2010.  So, it looks like (according to the CRA's GI-073) the rules applicable to Ontario and B.C. provide the Government entities with a tax holiday between May 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010.  How is that fair?

All I can say is for suppliers to the Ontario Government and BC Government to beware.  This does not seem correct.

My Latest HST (and Customs Duties) Presentation

Here is a copy of my latest PowerPoint presentation that I delivered on May 25, 2010 entitled "Let's Talk About HST and Customs Duties".  Yes, it is an odd combination of information.  The presentation was delivered in the context of supply chains involving Canada (Ontario in particular).  The focus was on non-income tax compliance.

A Motion on the HST in Ontario Stopped

Canada News Wire reported the following on May 18, 2010:

Yesterday Dalton McGuinty broke yet another promise when he betrayed an all-party agreement in order to kill an Ontario PC motion that would have allowed all MPPs to freely vote on delaying the implementation of the HST.

All three Ontario political parties had an agreement-in-principle to a 'programming motion' which would have allowed the Ontario PC Caucus to introduce a single motion on an issue of important public policy. After learning the Ontario PC Caucus intended to introduce a motion that recalled Dalton McGuinty's promise not to raise taxes without the consent of Ontarians and calling for the HST to not be implemented until after the next provincial election, McGuinty quickly backtracked on his handshake deal.

This is the third time in a week that the McGuinty Liberals have been caught playing dirty political tricks with Ontario's democratic rules. Previously the Liberals were caught leaking confidential legislative information as part of an unprecedented smear campaign against Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin and blocking Opposition MPPs from taking their seats on Budget Day.

 

    QUOTES:

    "Dalton McGuinty would rather break yet another promise than permit his
    own MPPs to vote on delaying the HST. These are clearly the desperate
    tactics of a desperate man."
    -- Lisa MacLeod, Ontario PC MPP for Nepean - Carleton and critic for
       Revenue and Accountability

    "It is hard to work in good faith with people who are so quick to break
    their promises and betray their commitments."
    -- John Yakabuski, Ontario PC MPP for Renfrew Nipissing Pembroke and
       Opposition House Leader

    QUICK FACTS:

      -  The Ontario PC Motion that Dalton McGuinty broke his promise to kill
         reads as follows:

         "That, in light of Premier McGuinty telling Ontario families the HST
         will be revenue-neutral when he knew all along "there will be an
         increase in taxation" as a result of it; the Legislative Assembly of
         Ontario calls upon the McGuinty government to delay implementation
         of the HST until a date following the next provincial general
         election."

For further information: Christine Bujold, (416) 325-8505, christine.bujold@pc.ola.org

Ontario's Small Business Support Payments Will Be Taxable For 2010 Income Taxes

A representative of the federal government confirmed this week that the amounts paid by the Ontario Government as small business transition support payments will be considered to be income for income tax purposes and will be taxable.  As a result, the $300 - $1000 just became a smaller amount that can be spent on harmonized sales tax (HST) compliance.

What is an interesting twist is that Ontario signed on to HST after the Federal Government agreed to provide a certain amount of money.  Did the Ontario negotiators realize that some of that money would go right back to the federal government in the form of income tax?

Small businesses must remember to include this one small time payment as income when reporting their 2010 income.  if they forget, the Canada Revenue Agency (the entity that is responsible for making the list of who is to receive the transition payment and how much they are to receive) may assess unreported income tax, penalties and interest.

Canada's Department of Finance Has Released Financial Institution Rules for the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)

On May 19, 2010, the federal Department of Finance released "Financial Institution Rules for the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)", which is a rather long and complicated document. The good news is that only financial institutions (including de minimis financial institutions) must figure out how this document changes their way of doing business and imposes new obligations.  The bad news is that financial institutions may charge higher service fees to cover their compliance costs / assessment risks.

The released document provides information on changes to rules for selected financial institutions (also known as SLFIs).  The changes include changes to the test for determining whether an entity is an SLFI.  As a result, it will be important for entities to apply the new test to see whether they are still SLFIs and whether they are now considered to be a SLFI.  The release states:

British Columbia and Ontario's decision to join the HST, effective July 1, 2010, will significantly increase the number of FIs that are SLFIs. For example, a bank with branches in Ontario and Manitoba and in no other provinces would become an SLFI only as a result of Ontario harmonization.

This statement suggests that some entities (were not considered to be SLFI before and are considered to be a SLFI now) now have a lot of work to do to prepare before July 1, 2010.

The released document also provides information to financial institutions about the "special attribution method" (friendly name "SAM") that they are required to use.  This complicated formula will likely appear in the coming weeks in regulations and, therefore, will not be subject to scrutiny by opposition MPs and the Canadian Senate.

The SAM attribution methods are briefly discussed for:

i. banks

ii. insurance corporations

iii. trust and loan corporations

iv. investment plans and segregated funds

v. other corporations, individuals and trusts

The publication also covers the following topics:

  • information requirements
  • penalties
  • MTFs that are ETFs
  • timing of PVAT (provincial HST component) determination under SAM
  • compliance rules
  • transitional rules for SLFIs re Ontario and BC
  • recapture of ITC rules for SLFIs
  • SLFI transition installment base
  • Imported supplies - non resident trusts
  • SLFI rules respecting deemed pension supplies and pension rebate
  •  

 

Ontario's Small Business Transition Credit Raises Questions

On May 14, 2010, the Ontario Government released Ontario Tax Tip 7 "Prepare for Ontario's HST: Small Business Transition Support" in which Ontario discusses a payment small business would receive to offset costs of modifying systems in order to transition to harmonized sales tax (HST).  Ontario Tax Tip 7 is intended to help small businesses understand if they are eligible for a small business transition support payment and explain how the support payment will be delivered to them. This support payment has been commonly referred to as the “Small Business Transition Credit”.

In order to qualify for a transition support payment, an eligible business must:

  • not be a listed financial institution under the Excise Tax Act (Canada);
  • carry on business in Ontario and be a GST/HST registrant on July 1, 2010;
  • make GST/HST taxable supplies (including zero-rated supplies) in the course of carrying on business;  and
  • have taxable annual revenues of less than $2 million (as announced in the 2010 Ontario Budget, the province will prescribe the 12-month period for calculating the $2 million taxable revenue threshold for purposes of the transition support payment).

If a small business for the transitional support payment, the amount the business will receive will be based on the following:

Total Quarterly Taxable Revenues Amount of Transition Support Payment
Up to and Including $15,000 $300
Over $15,000 and Up to and Including $50,000 2% of Taxable Revenue for the Quarter
Over $50,000 and Up to and Including $500,000 $1000

How is the Ontario Government going to program the computers to identify sole proprietorships and partnerships (joint ventures) and other businesses that are not separate legal entities?  There are many forms of small businesses that are not Ontario incorporated entities.  There are many forms of business that do not file separate tax returns.  A sole proprietor would report business income on his/her personal income tax return.  A partnership is not a legal entity for income tax purposes and the partners report business income and business losses on their respective income tax returns. 

Will the Canada Revenue Agency look at both income tax returns and GST/HST returns?  If the CRA is going to look at GST/HST returns, how will the annual filers be found and their quarterly sales revenues determined?

Are branches of foreign companies going to be treated differently than Ontario corporations?  If so, this approach would not encourage foreign direct investment to Ontario.

Are municipalities, schools, school boards, hospitals and other MUSH sector entities entitled to receive the small business transition credit if their taxable sales fall within the thresholds?

What is the Ontario Government going to do to prevent abuse?  What if a person registered 1000 corporations in June 2010?  Would they receive $30,000 from the Ontario Government even if each reported revenues of $10?

There are a number of questions that need to be answered so that all small businesses are recognized.  Equally as important, questions need to be asked so that cheques are not blindly written to HST-abuse vehicles.

Small businesses will need the financial assistance because it will cost more than $300-$1000 to implement the necessary changes correctly.  The problem is that there are problems with the mechanism.

Finally, I should mention that the small business support is taxable for income tax purposes.  The Department of Finance confirmed this today at the Southern Ontario Commodity Tax Group Meeting at the Toronto Board of Trade.

Ontario Finally Lets Suppliers Know They Have To Start Charging HST

Is it a coincidence that today I had a discussion with an accountant who asked about whether a client must start charging GST and HST on July 1, 2010 (or starting on May 1, 2010 if the transition rules apply) and the Ontario Government comes out with Tax Information Notice 6 "HST Notice for Suppliers of Taxable Property and Services to the Ontario Government"?  Probably it was a coincidence.

Tax Information Notice 6 states:

Under the sales tax harmonization agreement between the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada, the Canada-Ontario Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement (CITCA), Ontario has agreed that, effective July 1, 2010, all Ontario government ministries, agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations ("Ontario government entities") will pay Goods and Services Tax (GST) / Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on their purchases of taxable property and services. Property could be goods, real property or intangible personal property such as trademarks, rights to use a patent, and digitized products downloaded from the Internet.

What this means is that existing contracts where suppliers do not charge goods and services tax (GST) and/or Ontario retail sales tax (ORST) may be subject to GST and HST after May 1, 2010.  It used to be that Ontario Government ministries, departments and crown corporations told suppliers that they are GST-exempt.  This was not the correct term: the Ontario Government ministries, departments and crown corporations were not exempt under a provision of the GST legislation (a.k.a, the Excise Tax Act (Canada)).  The correct term is that the supplies were not taxable (but were not in the non-taxable importations schedule to the GST Legislation).  In simple terms, the federal government could not request that the provincial government pay tax and entered into a reciprocal taxation agreement.

Tax Information Notice 6 goes on to state:

Ontario government entities that are currently paying GST, as well as those that are currently claiming an exemption from GST (i.e., ministries and other provincial entities listed on Schedule A of the current Canada-Ontario Reciprocal Taxation Agreement (RTA) – see Appendix for list of entities, will pay GST/HST on their purchases of taxable property and services effective July 1, 2010. (Emphasis added)

Suppliers to the Ontario Government need to revisit existing contracts and change their invoicing and record keeping.  More importantly, the suppliers may need to educate their Ontario Government clietns/customers that they need to pay GST and HST. Information Notice 6 contains a warning not to be fooled by Ontario Government clients/customers:

Accordingly, suppliers must generally charge and collect GST/HST on any consideration that becomes due on or after July 1, 2010 in respect of a taxable supply to an Ontario government entity. In these cases, suppliers should not rely on or accept any Crown funds exemption requests or certifications requesting GST/HST relief at the point-of-sale.

Can you imagine the conversation between suppliers and their Ontario Government customers/clients where the Ontario Government customers/clients say they do not have to pay the GST/HST and the supplier must "respectfully disagree"?

I have to warn you about the May 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010 period.  The Ontario Government is telling suppliers in Information Notice 6 that if they currently have to pay GST (because they are not in Appendix A), they have to continue to pay GST.  If they currently are not required to pay GST (because the client/customer is listed in Appendix A), they do not have to pay GST during the May 1, 2010 to June 30, 2010 transition period (but will after July 1, 2010).  If they have to pay HST during the May 1, 2010 to June 30, 2010 transition period (and Appendix A does not apply when one talks about OHST), they must pay such OHST. Thanks for clearing up that up! 

Some suppliers who are not currently registered for GST purposes (because they only make non-taxable supplies to the Ontario Government) will have to get registered for GST/HST purposes.  Some suppliers who are not collecting and GST will have to adjust their record keeping to charge GST and HST on invoices and record such collections in their accounting records.  In addition, such businesses who have not been claiming input tax credits will need to record input tax credits in accounting records in connection with purchases.  Large businesses may be affected by the restricted input tax credits rules and cannot claim all OHST paid on business inputs. Some suppliers will need to file GST/HST returns electronically and be in a position to retrieve information from accounting records with respect to GST/HST collected, GST/HST invoiced and collectible, and input tax credits on purchased inputs. There is a lot more suppliers to the Ontario Government need to do to prepare for HST.

One last word of warning is that suppliers to the Ontario Government should prepare to be audited after implementation of HST.  They will be "low hanging fruit" for Canada Revenue Agency auditor as some will be making mistakes.  These changes are big changes.

Beware: Some Tips to Save HST Are Wrong

On May 12, 2010, the Globe and Mail ran a print article entitled "Tips for cheating the harmonized sales taxman".  Some of the tips provided in the origin version were incorrect and have been removed in the online version.

Printed Version:

Tip 1 "Buy Now, Use Later

Even if you prepay, you still pay HST on services used after July 1.  But products aren't subject to that rule.  So if you know the purchase of some durable product (e.g. washing machine, fall wardrobe, camping gear) is in your near future, buy it before July 1, even if it sits unused.  In fact, since HST adds 8 per cent and you can borrow money at a much lower rate, do this even if you save to take a short term loan to do so."

This advice is INCORRECT.  First, durable goods, including washing machines, fall wardrobes and camping equipment, are subject to Ontario retail sales tax (ORST) at the rate of 8%.  So, if a consumer buys goods before July 1, 2010, they will be paying a combined sales tax rates (GST and ORST) of 13%. Second, the transition rule applies to services and goods.  If you buy a good to be delivered before July 1, 2010, ORST and GST are payable.  If you buy a good before July 1, 2010 and the good is delivered after July 1, 2010, the good will be subject to GST and HST.

Printed Version:

Tip 2 "Get to Know the Internet

Look for retailers in Alberta and other "tax havens". They won't charge you HST or even PST if you have an out-of-their province shipping address.  Even after paying shipping and handling, you'll save money."

This advice is also INCORRECT.  Due to the HST place of supply rules for goods (also known as tangible personal property), a GST registrant in Alberta would be required to charge, collect and remit HST if the goods are shipped to an address in the HST Zone (Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Newfoundland/Labrador).  if you buy goods in Alberta and pay for shipping to Manitoba, you will not be required to pay HST.  However, if you live in Ontario, you will have to pay for someone to ship the goods from Manitoba to Ontario.  This second shipping may wipe out any HST savings.  Further, the transshipment may add risk of loss or damage to the transaction.

Printed Version:

Tip 5 "Get on the Internet

The government has a rebate program and the exempted products and services are many and varied.  You can't adjust your spending until you know where the tax applies and doesn't"

Continue Reading...

What Are The HST Place of Supply Rules For Services

Businesses in the HST Zone (Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador) will have to use the newly released harmonized sales tax (HST) place of supply rules, some of which are different from the existing place of supply rules (for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador). The applicable HST rates are:


• Ontario: 13% (5% GST and 8% provincial HST component)
• British Columbia: 12% (5% GST and 7% provincial HST component)
• Nova Scotia: 15% (5% GST and 10% provincial HST component starting July 1)
• New Brunswick: 13% (5% GST and 8% provincial HST component)
• Newfoundland/Labrador: 13% (5% GST and 8% provincial HST component)


In addition, some businesses outside the HST Zone will be required to charge, collect, and remit HST to Canada’s federal government in accordance with the place of supply rules when the place of supply is within the HST Zone.


On February 25, 2010, Canada's Department of Finance released an administrative document containing its proposed HST place of supply rules which will be used to determine whether a supplier must charge, collect and remit HST in connection with a supply made in Canada and whether a recipient must pay HST in connection with an acquisition or importation and at what rate. The Canada Revenue Agency subsequently issued, simply put, the proposed HST place of supply rules will be used to determine in which province a supply is considered to have occurred for HST purposes.


The HST place of supply rules for services have evolved from the existing rules to reflect the addition of the larger economic provinces of Ontario and British Columbia to the HST Zone.
The first question to ask when applying the HST place of supply rules is: What is being supplied or sold? Is it property (tangible personal property, real property or intangible property) or a service? If the supplier is supplying or providing a service, then the HST place of supply rules for services should be used.


On April 30, 2010, the Department of Finance released Draft Regulations in relation to Place of Supply for Property and Services.


The next question is whether one of the specific place of supply rules applies or the general place of supply rules for services. Determine whether any of the following types of services are being provided and, if so, go to the specific place of supply rule:


• personal services (e.g., a hair cut)
• services in relation to real property (e.g., constructing a house);
• services in relation to intangible property (e.g., designing a trade mark)
• computer-related services and Internet access;
• telecommunication services;
• premium rate telephone services;
• services in relation to a location specific event (e.g., participation in a conference);
• passenger transportation services;
• services supplied on board conveyances;
• baggage charges;
• services of child supervision;
• services related to a ticket, voucher or reservation;
• freight transportation services;
• postage and delivery services;
• customs brokerage services;
• air navigation services;
• repairs, maintenance, cleaning, alterations and other services relating to goods;
• service of a trustee in respect of a trust governed by an RRSP, RRIF or RESP.


If the supplier is not providing any of the above listed specific services (and note the devil may be in the details), then the general place of supply rules for services will apply. There are 5 general place of supply rules for services, which must be applied in the following order. Rule 1, 2 and 5 are the fundamental rules. Rules 3 and Rule 4 are tie-breaker rules
 

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What Are The HST Place of Supply Rules For Customs Brokers?

On February 25, 2010, the Department of Finance released a News Release summarizing the proposed harmonized sales tax (“HST”) place of supply rules and shortly thereafter the Canada Revenue Agency released a GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin setting out its administrative position. On April 30, 2010, the Department of Finance released “Draft Regulations in respect of the Place of Supply of Property and Services” (the “Draft Regulations”). There is a separate HST place of supply rule for customs brokerage services.


Section 24 of the Draft Regulations sets out the HST place of supply rules for customs brokerage services:


24.(1) Where a supply of a service is made in respect of the importation of goods and the service is the arranging for their release (as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Customs Act) or the fulfilling, in respect of the importation, of any requirement under that Act or the Customs Tariff to account for the goods, to report, to provide information or to remit any amount,


(a) if the goods are accounted for as commercial goods (as defined in subsection 212.1(1) of the Act) under section 32 of the Customs Act, the supply is made in the province in which the goods are situated at the time of their release;
(b) if paragraph (a) does not apply and tax, calculated at the tax rate for a participating province, is imposed under subsection 212.1(2) of the Act, or would be so imposed if subsections 212.1(3) and (4) and section 213 of the Act did not apply, in respect of the importation, the supply is made in that participating province; and
(c) in any other case, the supply is made in a non-participating province.


(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to the supply of any service provided in relation to an objection, appeal, redetermination, re-appraisal, review, refund, abatement, remission or drawback, or in relation to a request for any of the foregoing.


This means that:


Rule 1: If commercial goods are imported into Canada, the place of supply of the customs brokerage and related services is in the province in which the goods are released. Therefore, if the goods are released at Toronto Pearson International Airport, the Ontario HST (13%) would apply. If the goods are released at the Vancouver Port, then British Columbia HST (12%) will apply. If the goods are released at the Halifax Port, the Nova Scotia HST (15%) will apply after July 1, 2010.

 

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Real Estate Agents Have A Good HST Question

I have been contacted by an old friend (an Ottawa lawyer that I know and respect from my days at Goodmans LLP) who asked whether residential real estate commissions are subject to harmonized sales tax (HST) if the fees are in respect to activities performed by a real estate agent before July 1, 2010 and where the agreement of purchase of sale was signed before July 1, 2010, but the actual transfer of the residential real estate to the purchaser(s) occurred after July 1, 2010.  Obviously, the real estate at issue is located in Ontario.

What was explained to me was that all or substantially all of the real estate agent's services are performed prior to the conclusion of an agreement of purchase and sale by the vendor and purchaser.  Based on my personal experience buying a new home and selling an old home is that most of the services of the real estate agent are provided before the agreement is signed.  The vendor's real estate agent makes the house or condominium unit pretty and takes pictures.  Then they make a promotional brochure.  Then they advertise the property.  Then they take appointments for showings and sometimes attend the showings.  They sometimes host open houses.  The vendor's agent works to bring together a group of persons who would be interested in the property and often aims to create the environment of a bidding war between potential buyers.  The vendor's real estate agent then receives the offer(s) to purchase and forwards the offer(s) to the homeowners.  The negotiation process proceeds and eventually the vendor accept an offer an the paperwork is drawn up and signed.  Very little in the way of services is required from the vendor's real estate agent after the agreement of purchase and sale is signed and sent to the lawyers.

The purchaser's real estate agent performs services of identifying properties that meet the purchaser's requirements, setting up appointments with other agents for listed properties and takes the purchasers to the various appointments.  These services can take place over a number of months.  Eventually the perfect property is located and the purchaser's agent assists the purchaser in arranging financing and drafting an offer.  The purchaser's agent assists the purchaser with the negotiation of the deal and the final step is the agreement of purchase and sale.  It is possible that the offer/negotiation stage may transpire on many homes until the purchaser concludes a contract with a vendor.  In my experience, the purchaser's agent may also assist the purchaser find a lawyer and an inspector. Very little in the way of services is required from the purchaser's real estate agent after the agreement of purchase and sale is signed and sent to the lawyers.

That being said, after the date the agreement of purchase and sale is signed, there may be conditions in the agreement that must be satisfied (e.g. arranging financing, a home inspection, selling an existing home, etc.) before the contract is perfected. As a result, the important date is either the date of signing the agreement of purchase and sale or the date that the conditions are satisfied or expire. 

The question is whether under the transition rules, the real estate agent must charge HST.  The transition rule for services is that HST would generally apply to the supply of a service to the extent that the service is performed on or after July 1, 2010.  HST would generally not apply to a supply of a service if all or substantially all (90 per cent or more) of the service is performed before July 2010.  Consideration due or paid on or after July 1, 2010 would be subject to HST to the extent that  the consideration is for the part of a service that is performed on or after July 1, 2010 (See Ontario Ministry of Revenue Information Notice #3 "General Transition Rules for Ontario HST")

Based on the transition rules:

1) With respect to residential real estate deals signed before July 1, 2010 and all conditions are satisfied before July 1, 2010, it should be that HST is not payable if all or substantially all of the real estate agent's services are performed before July 1, 2010.  If the agreement of purchase and sale is signed and the conditions expire before July 1, 2010, it should be that all or substantially all of the services are considered to be performed before July 2010 and, therefore HST should not be payable. 

That being said, it would be useful for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to issue an administrative statement that they agree with the timing of the services.  I cannot imagine what basis the CRA would give that 10% or more of the services are performed after the satisfaction of all conditions.

Real estate agents should help themselves by taking detailed records of when they performed services for clients so that they can do the math for the auditors.

2) With respect to residential real estate deals that are signed before July 1, 2010 and some of the conditions expire after July 1, 2010, the facts and the HST status of the supply will have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  It is possible that more than 10% of the services will be performed after July 1, 2010 if the conditions create particular complications or if the buyer picked the first home they saw and the real estate agent's time was required to keep a deal together.

3) With respect to residential real estate deals that are signed before July 1, 2010 and fall apart after July 1, 2010, the facts and HST status of the supply will have to be considered on a case-by-case basis with respect to amounts received by real estate agents from the deposits.

Landlords Not Happy about HST and are Asking Tenants to Leave

One of the benefits of The HST Blog is that I receive information from followers and can share their real life stories about living with harmonized sales tax (HST) and the negative effects of HST.

I have received an email from a follower, B, about her mother being asked to leave a rented condominium unit by a landlord.  B has informed (and I have changed a few details to protect B [look for brackets]):

My mother has rented a condo for the last 3 1/2 years in [Ontario]. She does not have a lease but merely an agreement with the landlord to pay monthly [rent]. The landlord showed up for the rent check on Sat May 1, 2010. At that time he informed her that [the landlord's] family would be moving into the condo and he gave her a brief letter and he signed it. He gave her 2 months notice that she has to be out by (coincidentally) June 30, 2010.

I have heard that landlords can only increase rent by a certain percent (2.1% ?) but this is how some landlords can get around that. I started looking for some rentals in [Ontario] online as soon as my mother informed me about this [meeting with her landlord]. I did phone one person that was advertising a sublease for 3 months for $1100.00 per month. He informed me that after the sublease the rent was being increased to $1270.00 per month.

What this real life story tells us is that HST is affecting the decisions of landlords and negatively impacting tenants (already).  Rentals of residential real property are not subject to Ontario retail sales tax (ORST) or British Columbia social services tax (BCSST). Rentals of residential real property are exempt for goods and services tax (GST)/HST purposes. This means that landlords are not entitled to claim input tax credits and cannot recover GST/HST paid on purchases.  HST (and GST) would be payable on landlord's costs such as electricity, heating fuel, landscaping, snow removal, repairs, management fees (paid to third parties), security, supply and install fixtures (carpets, paint, cabinets, etc.), etc.

As a result, if a landlord's costs of operating the property increase due to HST, then the landlord will want to pass those increased costs on to the tenants.  However, the landlords may not be able to pass on the costs to existing tenants (under the landlord-tenant laws).  Some landlords are asking the existing tenants to leave so that they may charge new tenants a higher amount of rent.  Under the law, landlords are limited in the reasons for asking a tenant to leave.  One of the acceptable reasons for asking a tenant to leave is that the landlord is moving into the residential real property unit.

What we are learning is that HST may result in homelessness of individuals as landlords ask tenants to leave.  HST is negatively affecting some seniors on fixed incomes who have been asked to leave their rented homes.  It may not be easy for individuals to find new affordable housing.  In addition, moving ones possessions requires friends/family or a moving company (which costs money).

What we might see is landlords increasing rents and tenants having to accept the higher costs (if they can afford the higher rent) even if the rent increase is contrary to the law.

These negative effects cannot be solved by a one-time cheque.

British Columbia Government Restructures Itself To Save HST Costs

The Globe and Mail newspaper is reporting in an article entitled "B.C. alters health structure to avoid $3.5 million HST bill" published on May 7, 2010 that the British Columbia is undergoing a restructuring. The B.C. Ministry of Health Services and the CEOs of the provincial health authorities have agreed to tuck the Shared Services Organization, which provides services such as computer support and bulk purchasing for the health sector, under one of the health departments / crown entities.

The reason for the reorganization is that the Shared Services Organization would otherwise be required to charge HST on supplies made to the Government of British Columbia and other provincial health entities AND cannot recover all of the HST by way of input tax credits or public service bodies rebates.  Hopefully we will get more detailed about the reorganization to learn whether the changes create exempt supplies (instead of taxable supplies) or non-taxable labour.  This will help us identify other HST savings opportunities.

The question that taxpayers should be asking is whether the Ontario Government and the B.C Government have undertaken a complete analysis of their internal operations in order to address all situations where the provincial government must pay #HST (and GST) on supplies made in the province (or to businesses in HST provinces) that is not recoverable.  We should be asking if HST is going to cause provincial budgets to balloon.  We should be asking whether those who are implementing HST recognize the cost effects associated with HST.  Proof of understanding the cost effects is the government itself taking steps to minimize the negative effects within the government spending structure.

I would guess that the Ontario Government has not asked each and every government employee and manager and Deputy Minister to go over their budgets to identify unrecoverable HST costs within Ministry, department and Crown entity budgets.  Let's wait for the NDP and Conservative opposition parties to find what the governing HST Liberals have overlooked.  I will predict a few big budget line items increasing due to unrecoverable HST.  This will be a topic for discussion and accountability into the future (after HST implementation).  I wonder if the Ontario Ombudsman is going to be busy looking at HST issues.

The other side to this story is that if the BC and Ontario governments must reorganize due to HST,: what about businesses?  Both Ontario and British Columbia have said that HST will reduce administrative costs for business.  Well, here is an example within the BC Government that shows an INCREASE in administrative costs resulting from the implementation of HST.  The reality is that HST will increase administrative costs for certain businesses (especially where amounts are paid for services and other goods and services not subject to provincial sales tax).

The tax officials' counter-argument is that businesses (like the BC Government) can reorganize to avoid increased HST administrative costs.  That is correct.  Steps may, in certain cases, be made to minimize HST costs.  However, the restructuring of business organizations will cost businesses money - legal fees, accounting fees, advisors fees, etc.  So, businesses must spend money during the worst economic recession in recent years in order to save HST in the future.  In addition, any business that reorganizes will have to ask questions whether their restructuring may be challenged by the Canada Revenue Agency using the GST/HST general anti-avoidance rule.  It may not be so simple.

HST Will Cost Municipalities

The Sudbury Star has posted an article that harmonized sales tax will cost the City of Sudbury $450,000 per year.  This will mean a budget shortfall and potentially higher municipal taxes. 

Under the federal Excise Tax Act (Canada), where a municipality makes exempt supplies (and cannot recover the amounts paid as GST as input tax credits), the municipality may claim a rebate of 100% of the GST.  So, under the GST regime, municipalities are tax neutral.  This will continue for the 5% GST portion of expenditure by municipalities.

However, under the HST, the 8% provincial component in Ontario is not fully recoverable.  There are two scenarios.  First, if the HST paid by the municipality matches with a exempt supply by the municipality, the rebate is 78% of the 8% provincial HST component.  For example, if a municipality paid $100,000 for third party snow removal services, the municipality would pay $5,000 GST (that is fully recoverable) and $8,000 OHST.  Only 82% of the $8,000 is recoverable by the municipality by way of a rebate.  The remaining 22% is an unrecoverable cost to the municipality.

Second, the municipality may be caught by the restricted input tax credit rules if the municipality sells more than $10 million in taxable supplies in a year.  I would expect that the City of Sudbury would fit into this category.  Under the restricted input tax credit rules, the OHST component of purchases of energy, certain telecommunications, certain vehicles and fuel and meals and entertainment are not recoverable for a number of years after implementation of HST.  For example, if the municipality purchases electricity that is allocable to taxable activities (e.g., the municipal skating rink, swimming pools, etc.) and the cost over a year is $1,000,000, the $80,000 in HST is unrecoverable if incurred in after July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013.

HST also means that consumers will pay more for certain property and services acquired from the City.  The article provides the following examples:

* A one-year adult membership at Howard Armstrong Recreational Centre will jump from $218.25 to $235;

* A three-month child, youth or senior pass to city swimming pool will jump from $59.50 to $64;

* The 25-week Walk Your Way to Wellness Program for seniors will jump from $92 to $99;

* Ice rental for the Walden Oldtimers Hockey Tournament will go from $209 to $260;

* A plot in the city's Veteran's cemetery will go from $954 to $1,027;

* Adult athletic field rates will go from $57.50 per game to $62 per game. The cost of lights, if needed, will go from $17.75 an hour to $19 an hour;

* Renting the chalets at Adanac or Fielding Park for a Saturday night will jump from $174.75 to $188;

* Use of weigh scales at city landfill sites will jump from $16.25 to $17.50.
 

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HST Place of Supply Rules for Litigators and Those Who Provide Litigation Services (Revised)

The harmonized sales tax (HST) place of supply rules include a specific rules for "services rendered in connection with litigation". These rules apply to lawyers, process servers, transcription service providers, those who provide expert opinions in connection with litigation, etc.

Section 26 of the Draft Regulations in respect of Place of Supply for Property and Services released on April 30, 2010 sets out the proposed specific place of supply rules for services in relation to litigation:

"A supply of a service rendered in connection with criminal, civil or administrative litigation (other than a service rendered before the commencement of such litigation) that is under the jurisdiction of a court or other tribunal established under the laws of a province, or in the nature of an appeal from a decision of a court or other tribunal established under the laws of a province, is made in that province."

More simply put, the rules are:


Rule #1: The general place of supply rules for services will apply to criminal, civil or administrative litigation services provided prior to the commencement of such litigation.
For example, if a person hires a lawyer to discuss whether the facts warrant litigation, the general rules apply. If a person hires a lawyer to sue an opponent and discussions lead to a settlement before a statement of claim is filed with the Court, the general place of supply rules would apply.
 

Rule #2: The general place of supply rules will apply to services in connection with litigation that is under the jurisdiction of a Court or other Tribunal established under the laws of Canada (rather than the laws of a province).


Rule #3: The general rules for services will not apply to litigation services rendered after the commencement of litigation. If the services are in connection with litigation that is under the jurisdiction of a court in an HST province (Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Newfoundland/Labrador) or is in the nature of an appeal from a decision of a court or other Tribunal established under the laws of an HST province, then HST applies.


If litigation has commenced (e.g., there is an initiating document such as a statement of claim) and Rule 3 applies, a supply of a service rendered in connection with criminal, civil or administrative litigation in an HST province, the supply will be regarded as being made in that HST province. In other words, if the litigation is in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and you have a court file number assigned, HST at the rate of 13% applies.


Rule #4: If litigation has commenced (e.g., there is an initiating document such as a statement of claim), a supply of a service rendered in connection with criminal, civil or administrative litigation filed with a court under the laws of a non-HST province (e.g., Alberta), the supply will be regarded as being made in that non-HST province. In other words, if the litigation is in Alberta and you have a court file number assigned, HST will not be applicable to the services in connection with the litigation (however GST will be applicable).


Rule #5: If a supply of services in respect of litigation is supplied to a non-resident of Canada, the zero-rating provisions may apply to both the GST and HST component. The HST place of supply rules do not override the zero-rating provisions for exported services and professional services.
 

An unanswered question is whether an arbitration is "litigation" under the place of supply rules and, therefore, subject to the specific place of supply rule discussed above. If the Canada Revenue Agency takes the position that an arbitration is caught by the rules, arbitration centres in the HST Zone may not be popular with Canadian parties. Also, business law lawyers and in-house counsel may have to reconsider contractually stipulating that Ontario or British Columbia as the place of arbitration in contracts.


Lawyers should consider whether their clients can save HST based on the place of filing and should start asking the questions as part of their litigation strategy now --- given that litigation filed today will likely continue after HST implementation.


Lawyers and service providers should also recognize that the place of supply rule for pre-filing services is different than post-filing litigation services. Therefore, one file might involve a change in the HST rate. When this happens, it is best to open a new file at the time of the filing of the initiating document
 

Canada's Department of Finance Has Released Draft HST Place of Supply Rules Regulations

On April 30, 2010, Canada's Department of Finance released "Draft Regulations in respect of the Place of Supply of Property and Services".  Section 33 states that the Place of Supply (GST/HST) Regulations are to be repealed and replaced by the Regulations in respect of the Place of Supply of Property and Services.  Even though these regulations have been released in draft form, the will apply to supplies made (a) on or after May 1, 2010 and (b) after February 25, 2010 and before May 1, 2010 unless any part of the consideration for the supply becomes due or is paid before May 1, 2010.

It is very important to note that the place of supply rules have changed slightly in certain cases.  For example. the place of supply rules for services in connection with litigation have changed from:

February 25, 2010 version: "A supply of a service rendered in connection with criminal. civil or administrative litigation in a particular province will be regarded as being made in that province.

to:

April 30, 2010 version: A supply of a service rendered in connection with criminal, civil or administrative litigation (other than a service rendered before the commencement of such litigation) that is under the jurisdiction of a court or other tribunal established under the laws of a province or in the nature of an appeal from a decision of a court of other tribunal established under the laws of a province, is made in that province.

The HST Blog raised concerns about the draft place of supply rule for litigation services and may have influenced the change.

There are other changes to the draft regulations that will be discussed in future blog posts. Please note that draft regulations trump administrative announcements.

Ontario Issues Publication on What is Subject to HST and What is Not

Ontario has posted a good/help (not entirely complete) publication "What's Taxable Under the HST and What's Not?".  It is a good first attempt at communicating with the public at large about what property and services will be subject to HST.

Broad categories that are broken down into sub-items are:

  • clothing and footwear;
  • food and beverages;
  • home services;
  • accommodation and travel;
  • around the house;
  • motorized vehicles;
  • home purchases;
  • health products and services;
  • memberships, entertainments and sports equipment;
  • leases and rentals;
  • electronics;
  • professional and personal services;
  • tobacco; and
  • banking and investments.

There document has been prepared more as a self-promotion piece than anything else.  as a result, it does not emphasize the multitude of services, real property and intangible property that will be subject to higher rate taxation.

That being said, a document such as this is needed and useful.

Reminder: May 1, 2010 May Be Your Official Start of HST Collection/Paying Obligations

This may be your last week of harmonized sales tax (HST) freedom. Sorry to be the messenger of the news.

July 1 may be the "official" implementation date of HST in Ontario/British Columbia; however, under the transition rules, all current GST registrants (wherever they are located) currently doing business in Ontario/BC, may be required to collect the 13% HST starting on  May 1, 2010.

Rule 1: If a customer purchases goods after May 1, 2010 AND pays for the goods after May 1, 2010 AND the goods are delivered after July 1, 2010, HST will be collectible on that sale even if the money is paid before July 1, 2010.  For example, a consumer purchases a custom sofa on May 2, 2010.  The delivery date for the sofa is July 23, 2010.  HST will be collectible and payable on the amounts paid for the sofa after May 1, 2010 due to the delivery date of the goods.

Rule 2:  A client purchases services after May 1, 2010 AND pays for the services after May 1, 2010 AND the services are provided after July 1, 2010, HST will be collectible on that sale even if the money is paid before July 1, 2010.  For example, a client contracts with a painter who is really busy due to the incoming HST.  He cannot paint the rooms in the house until August 2010.  Even if the client pays the painter before July 1, 2010, the supply is subject to HST because the services will be performed after July 1, 2010.

Exception to Rule 2: HST will not be payable by other clients of the painter who starts to provide the services before July 1, 2010 and is 90% complete as of July 1, 2010.

Rule #3: If a lessor (supplier) leases equipment to a lessee (recipient) starting on May 1, 2010 for 12 months and is paid in full on May 30, 2010 for the 12 month lease period, GST and HST will be collectible and payable on 10 of the monthly lease installments. GST and Ontario retail sales tax (or British Columbia Social Service tax) would be collectible and payable for 2 (May and June) of the 12 months.  Assumption is that place of supply rules puts the equipment in Ontario or BC.

If a supplier collects HST in May or June 2010, they do not remit it until their first GST/HST return after July 1, 2010.  In other words, this is the one time that it is okay to keep the tax collected for a little longer than your next return.  The reason why the Ontario and British Columbia do not want supplies to remit the HST in May or June is that the provinces will not get the money.  The HST will be characterized and GST in the computer systems.  That being said, all GST, ORST and BCSST must be remitted on time.

Ontario Releases HST Tips for Public Service Bodies

On April 19, 2010 the Ontario Ministry of Revenue issued Tax Tip #5 "Public Service Bodies" to give guidance to public service bodies about how harmonized sales tax implementation will affect them.  It is important to note that the document itself says it was issued in "April 2010", which is technically correct - but it may be misleading in 2 years or more when an auditor wishes to use this document against a PSB in the context of an audit.  I  am looking into my crystal ball and see an auditor telling a PSB that they had an entire month before the May 1, 2010 transition rule date to read the document.

This tax tip is for PSBs, which includes charities, municipalities, universities, public colleges, school authorities, hospital authorities and non-profit organizations.  These entities provide exempt supplies (at least in part) and are not entitled to claim full input tax credits to recover goods and services tax (GST) and harmonized sales tax (to the extent that it is applicable on their purchases).  That being said, these entities may be entitled to claim certain public service body rebates:

Type of PSB Federal Rebate Percentage (of GST) Ontario Rebate Percentage (of HST)
Municipalities 100% 78%
Universities and Public Colleges established and operated on a non-profit basis 67% 93%
School Authorities established and operated on a non-profit basis 68% 93%
Hospital Authorities (only for activities of operating a public hospital), Hospitals (for eligible activities other than the operations of a public hospital) and facility operators and external providers (for eligible activities) 83% 87%
Charities and Qualifying Non-profit Organizations 50% 82%

It is important to note that the provincial rebate percentage in other provinces in the HST Zone (e.g., British Columbia) are different.

What this chart means is that if a charity makes a purchase for $100, it will pay $5 in GST and $8 in HST.  The charity is entitled to a PSB rebate of $2.50 of the GST and $6.56 of the HST.  The charity does not recover $3.94, which is an unrecoverable expense.  When the charity completes its GST/HST return, it must claim the rebate amounts and fill out all the necessary paperwork to recover the $2.50 and $6.56.  While recovery of otherwise unrecoverable amounts is good - there are administrative costs that need to be acknowledged (for which compensation is not available).

Tax Tip #5 covers the mere basics regarding (1) registration (including the small supplier threshold), (2) charging HST, (3) self-assessment (including the transition period between October 14, 2009 and May 1, 2010 - but does not give much assistance), (4) rebates, (5) quick method accounting, (6) special net tax calculation for charities, etc.

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Key HST Dates to Help With Preparation

There are a number of key dates in the time lines for harmonized sales tax (HST) in Ontario and British Columbia.  I hope that these time lines help you prepare and organize yourselves.

Ontario

 

March 23, 2009

 

McGuinty Government announces plans to implement HST

After October 14, 2009 Certain businesses and public service bodies may be required to self-assess and remit the provincial component of HST (=8%)
March 25, 2010 Place of Supply Rules announced
May 1, 2010

GST registrants will begin to charge and collect HST for property and/or services to be delivered after July 1, 2010 (if not paid in full by April 30, 2010)

Ontario businesses should be registered for GST/HST purposes

Systems should be in place to record and track HST (collected and paid) and restricted input tax credits

Week of June 28, 2010 To the extent possible, issue pre-HST invoices and reduce audit risk
July 1, 2010

HST Implementation Date (13% HST applies)

Certain Ontario businesses will be required to file GST/HST returns electronically

Businesses that are required to file GST/HST returns electronically should take steps to be ready

July 23, 2010 Final Ontario retail sales tax return is due
August 31, 2010 Any monthly GST/HST filer must remit HST collected between May 1, 2010 and July 31, 2010
October 31, 2010

Any applicable Ontario retail sales tax must be paid by this date

Any quarterly GST/HST filer must remit HST collected between May 1, 2010 and September 3, 2010

November 23, 2010 Final Ontario retail sales tax supplemental return is due

 

British Columbia

 

July 23, 2009

 

Campbell Government announces plans to implement HST

After October 14, 2009 Certain businesses and public service bodies may be required to self-assess and remit the provincial component of HST (=7%)
March 25, 2010 Place of Supply Rules announced
May 1, 2010

GST registrants will begin to charge and collect HST for property and/or services to be delivered after July 1, 2010 (if not paid in full by April 30, 2010)

BC businesses should be registered for GST/HST purposes

Systems should be in place to record and track HST (collected and paid) and restricted input tax credits

Week of June 28, 2010 To the extent possible, issue pre-HST invoices and reduce audit risk
July 1, 2010

HST Implementation Date (12% HST applies)

Certain British Columbia businesses will be required to file GST/HST returns electronically

Businesses that are required to file GST/HST returns electronically should take steps to be ready

July 23, 2010 Final British Columbia social service tax return is due
August 31, 2010 Any monthly GST/HST filer must remit HST collected between May 1, 2010 and July 31, 2010
October 31, 2010

Any applicable British Columbia social service tax must be paid by this date

Any quarterly GST/HST filer must remit HST collected between May 1, 2010 and September 3, 2010

January 23, 2011

Final British Columbia social service tax supplemental return is due

Vendors will be entitled to commissions re final British Columbia social services tax returns and supplemental returns filed before this date

 

This Is The Time To Revisit Your 2010 Budget - HST Changes May Present Opportunities

Whenever the government announces tax reform or a tax auditor plans to conduct an audit, these events that businesses cannot control present an opportunity to revisit past planning.  For example, harmonized sales tax implementation in Ontario and British Columbia on July 1, 2010 and the change in the HST rate in Nova Scotia on July 1, 2010 should encourage proactive businesses to go over their 2010 budget plans.  Some budget items will be affected by the outside changes and, therefore, should be adjusted upwards or downwards so that the business stays within budget.

For example, hospitals, doctors offices, dentists offices, nursing homes/long term care homes, residential rental property businesses, charities, day cares, schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions, an other businesses engaged in whole or on part in exempt activities will see their costs increase and will not be able to recover 100% of the increased costs.  These are the businesses that will benefit most from the exercise of taking their 2010 Budget, adjusting for new HST costs, recalculating, and then making changes.

In addition, large businesses and large corporate groups (where the business or corporate group makes taxable and zero-rated sales in excess of $10 million per 12 month period) will be subject to the restricted input tax credit rules and, therefore will see certain costs increase by 8% without the corresponding recovery.  Where costs go up, and offsetting change may be required.

These businesses have an opportunity (I know, it does not seem like a positive event)  to review budget plans and make adjustments.  It may be that certain expenses will have to be cut.  it may be that profit margins will have to increase.  It may be that the review of commercial rent (which will be subject to HST after July 1, 2010) will cause a reconsideration of the location of the business and a better location may be identified.  It may be that cost savings opportunities may be identified (e.g.,  subscriptions are a less expensive option if paid before July 1, 2010).   It may be that new technology may be installed to control/reduce energy costs in the long term.  It may be that ORST recovery or GST/HST recovery opportunities will be identified (that the business had been overlooking).  It may be that the investigation will result in a new road map for the business to more profits.

In an unrelated matter last week (which I will use as an example), I assisted a client with a NAFTA verification.  The review of the business operations in preparation of a visit from the United States Customs and Border Protection, the client undertook the analysis of the bill of materials and the costs to produce a product.  That analysis resulted in the client identifying changes in costs due to the appreciation of the Canadian dollar and the squeezing of the profit margin.  As a result of the unwelcome verification, changes were made on the purchase side and sales side of the business.  The result will be a healthier balance sheet at the end of 2010.

Change is not fun.  Change is rarely welcome.  Usually change means more work.  The question is whether the results of the new work will be positive for the business.

For The Next Two Weeks Only, No HST On Goods and Services Delivered After July 1

Some businesses in Ontario and British Columbia have a promotional opportunity.  Businesses that sell goods and/or services may advertise that if payment in full is received before May 1, 2010 for goods and/or services to be delivered after July 1, 2010, HST will not be payable.  Few customers/clients may be aware of this opportunity to take advantage of the Ontario transition rules and British Columbia transition rules.  Please refer to the HST Library for more government publications on the transition rules.

April 16 - 30, 2010 presents an opportunity to place an ad on your web-site, post a promotional sign in your store window, change your voice mail greeting, or place more traditional advertising.  For example, a hair stylist or massage therapist may offer coupons for services to be delivered after July 1, 2010.  If the client pays in full for the book of coupons before May 1, 2010, then the service provider will not be required to charge, collect and remit HST (even when the pre-paid coupon is used).  Another example is that a buyer of custom furniture may pay for the furniture in full before May 1, 2010 and will not have to pay HST if the custom furniture is delivered after July 1, 2010.

There is a risk for the buyer of non-delivery of goods and/or non-performance of services.  Buyers will have to weigh the credibility of the supplier against their desire to save the HST.  However, if my hair stylist were to present this opportunity to me and I have been going to Jie Matar for years, I would feel comfortable parting with my money.  Each consumer will have to assess their comfort with pre-payment.

NOTE: Prepayment is different than a deposit.  A deposit that can be returned (such as a lawyer's retainer) may not satisfy the payment prior to May 1, 2010 transition rule requirement.  If the deposit is held in trust and is not applied to an invoice for delivery or performance before July 1, 2010, the CRA auditors may expect HST.  The CRA has administrative positions relating to deposits that are based on provisions in the Excise Tax Act.  In other words, use of the word "deposit" may be problematic in an audit.  The payment must be a pre-payment or consideration for the goods and/or services.

If a business takes advantage of the transition rules, they must keep detailed records.  An auditor may show up to conduct an audit in 3 years and will ask why HST was not collected on the deliveries (services performed) that occurred after July 1, 2010.  The business will have to provide evidence of the payment before May 1, 2010 (an auditor will not rely on a statement).  It will be important to enter the receipts of money into the business records (e.g., general ledger accounts for April 2010) as soon as possible and preferably in April 2010.  Frequent trips to the bank in April 2010 is highly recommended so that you can prove the deposits - you must have received the money from the customer or client if you deposited the money in the bank.  The purchase of a "PAID" stamp from the office supplies store would be helpful (but may not be considered definitive proof because the stamp could be used in May, June, July) -- a stamp on each paid invoice along with the date of payment would be evidence if matched with other documents (such as photocopied cheques, bank statements, credit card receipts, etc.).  Scanning documents into computerized records that will show an April 2010 saved date may be useful.

I would like to note that auditors can be difficult and not accept documentary evidence.  lawyers and courts like documentary evidence. A real attempt to keep accurate records may satisfy due diligence defense requirements even if the record-keeping is not perfect.

Effective Communication Will Be The Key To A Successful HST Compliance Program

After a business realizes that harmonized sales tax (HST) is coming and that changes are required to systems and documentation, the business must figure out what is necessary to ensure compliance.  The government publications help, but do not give enough information to make sure that businesses know what they must do to comply.

It is not sufficient for the Ontario Ministry of Revenue to announce that HST is 13%, HST is payable and collectible where GST is payable and collectible (except if a point of sale rebate is permitted), the implementation day is July 1, 2010, there are transition rules and place of supply rules and most businesses should stop charging Ontario retail sales tax on July 1.  What is missing is effective communication on what steps businesses should take to prepare.  This trial and error approach is costly for businesses - Businesses should try to comply and government will tell them where the mistakes were made by assessing GST/HST, interest and/or penalties.

The onus (and I do not mean legal onus or burden of proof) is on suppliers (sellers/retailers) and recipients (buyers/[purchasers) to figure out the legal requirements and be perfect in their implementation of the law (to the extend it is currently passed) and administrative statements (to the extent they are written and accurately reflect the written or unwritten law) and place of supply rules (which have not been passed by way of law or promulgated by way of regulation yet).  In other words, the communication from government to businesses is insufficient to ensure compliance.

In addition, businesses must effectively communicate within the organization in order to ensure compliance.  Someone must do their best to understand the HST rules and communicate the rules within the organization so that the proper system changes are made.  If the tax department/Chief Financial Officer does not discuss HST implementation with the sales department, the sales persons might not know what is subject to HST and what is not.  The sales persons may not understand when an invoice should include HST and when HST is not payable.  The sales persons might not know that they must charge HST on sales made in May and June if delivery occurs after July 1, 2010.

In addition, the computerized systems cannot change themselves.  Usually there is the information technology (IT) guru within an organization that must write computer source code or undertake configurations to ensure that HST is charged on invoices.  If there is not effective communication with the IT guru about what changes need to be made to electronic documents and computerized systems to record HST, the computers may be of little help in fulfilling their important role(s).

In addition, the IT guru may have to make adjustments to accounting systems so that the record keeping/ accounting programs track the GST and HST properly.  The computer system will be a useful tool to ensure GST and HST collected is added / reported correctly when GST/HST Returns must be completed and filed electronically (or in paper format).  The computer system will be a central tool in recording and reporting input tax credits, rebates, refund and restricted input tax credits.  If the IT guru does not receive clear instructions, he/she might not make all the necessary changes.

Effective compliance often includes an internal audit or monitoring of the systems to ensure that accurate information is communicated.  If no one has this role / function within their job description, the job might not be performed.

If problems are discovered, effective communication is necessary to make new and further adjustments to the system.  For example, if a September 1, 2010 invoice to the Government of Ontario did not include GST and HST (because prior to HST implementation neither taxes were charged), whoever discovers the problem will need to communicate the mistake internally within the organization so that the sales people, the IT guru, human resources, the tax department or CFO and others make the necessary changes.  Someone will also need to contact the Government of Ontario and send the invoice for the GST/HST or amended invoice including GST/HST.

Finally, I have to point out that effective communication extends to lawyers, accountants, customs brokers and other service providers.  A business will get incorrect/incomplete answers to questions if there is ineffective communication to outside service providers.  If you are going to rely on a service provider's help, you need to communicate all the relevant facts and instructions - otherwise the advice or services that you expect to be provided to you may not be provided.

Ontario Issues Page on HST Preparedness - But, Ontario Businesses Should Look For Alternative Sources of Guidance

On April 12, 2010, Ontario released "Preparing for the HST: What You Need to Know" (March 2010), which is a single page document that does help Ontario businesses understand what they need to do.  It states, in part:

  • The HST is basically the GST with a provincial component added to arrive at a 13% rate. If no GST applies now, no HST will apply after July 1, 2010. Provincial point of sale rebates mean that selected goods will only be taxed at 5%.
  • If you are already registered for GST, no further registration is required. If you are not required to register for GST, you do not need to register for HST.
  • Your HST reporting period will be the same as your GST reporting period. You will report both GST and HST charged and collected, and claim input tax credits and rebates in much the same way you have been for GST.
  • You should modify accounting, billing and invoicing systems, cash register and point of sale systems, including web interfaces and automatic payments, to switch to HST and remove RST. You should also ensure budgets remove the 8% RST cost from purchases after July 1, 2010 in accordance with the transitional rules. You should also update taxable benefit calculations.
  • Consult the transitional rules for transactions straddling the July 1, 2010 date. Ensure you charge HST, as appropriate, on any billings on or after May 1, 2010 for taxable goods, services or intangible property to be supplied after July 1, 2010. Familiarize yourself with the place of supply rules and the temporary restrictions on input tax credits.
  • Assess the impact of HST on budget and business plans to account for lower costs and shifts in business purchasing. Evaluate pricing strategies and scrutinize supplier quotes to ensure tax savings are passed on.
  • Your final RST return is due on or before July 23, 2010. Supplemental returns will be available for reporting RST amounts collected after July 1, 2010.
     

This Ontario publication does not provide businesses with useful information on what they should be doing to prepare for HST so that they may be in compliance on the implementation date, July 1, 2010.  Information about the actions that businesses must be taking in order to comply is really what businesses need to know.  It is not sufficient to tell businesses to figure it out themselves - in the next 2.5 months.

There are a number of more helpful resources prepared by non-governmental businesses:

 We will continue to provide more sources of HST Information.  Please refer to the HST Library (along the top bar of this blog), which links to various useful source documents.  There are only 2.5 months left to get systems in place --- which is not a lot of time.  It often takes months of careful planning and implementation to ensure compliance systems will work when needed.

 

The Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario Come Out Swinging

After I posted my blog posting yesterday, I was sent the Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario issued a press release entitled "McGuinty Government Dupes Media and Tenants on HST: Tenants not protected from HST". The press release states:

Today the McGuinty Liberal government misled the media and tenants and caused further harm to rental housing quality by announcing that landlords will not be able to pass on HST costs to tenants in above guideline rent increases (AGIs).

“This bizarre move by the Liberal government was designed to capture headlines and dupe the media into believing that tenants are somehow going to be protected from negative HST impacts” said Vince Brescia, President & CEO of FRPO. 

The government gave deliberately misleading information in its press release designed to capture media attention, and also designed to attack landlords rather than help them deal with the huge negative consequences of the HST that are specific to the rental housing industry.

“It is unfortunate that the government has chosen not to help the industry deal with the massive negative impact of the HST on Ontario’s rental stock and tenants” said Brescia. “They seem to be more interested in headlines than in helping tenants”.

This is an interesting press release that goes on to provide more detailed information about the rental housing industry in Ontario and their point of view that harmonized sales tax (HST) costs to landlords will be passed on to renters in the form of higher rents.  It is particularly interesting in light of the fact that HST implementation is only 2.5 months away.  It is also interesting in light of the wage freeze budget.

The tone of the news release is more provocative than what is usual. But, provocation may be necessary.  Many in Ontario can be described as happy sleeping puppies who are not aware of what HST will mean starting on July 1, 2010. If there is misinformation by government officials, then in is n important public service for those who understand what is myth and what is true to come forward.

I will continue to monitor this situation in order to report further on whether landlords will be restricted n their ability to pass on unrecoverable HST costs to tenants/renters of residential real property.  I would expect that landlords would be entitled to pass on unrecoverable HST costs in the form of higher rents.  It will be a significant development if laws and regulations are passed to limit landlords' recovery rights. 

If laws and regulations are passed in relation to one industry, it is a slippery slope to force on businesses unrecoverable HST costs.  The initial announcements at the time of the announcement of HST was that the tax reform was beneficial to business.  The residential rental property industry may disagree at this time.

Ontario Renters Hear Good News About Government Limits on HST Recovery Rent Increases

The Toronto Star is reporting that the Ontario Liberal Government plans to make a big announcement  to help out renters of real property by restrictions on rent increases.  On the other hand, the announcement restricts the ability of landlords to raise rents to recover unrecoverable harmonized sales tax (HST).

Laurie Monsebraaten reports:

In advance of the harmonized sales tax taking effect in July, sources say the Liberal government will close a loophole in rent regulations that would have allowed landlords to apply for above-guideline rent increases based on the new 13 per cent tax on utilities.

Instead, the new HST costs for utilities will be reflected in rent only as they affect the Consumer Price Index, which the province uses to calculate the annual rent increase guideline. 

Continue Reading...

Will HST Apply to Imports of Goods Into Ontario and British Columbia?

There is some misinformation about whether HST will apply to imports into the new HST provinces (Ontario and British Columbia) after July 1, 2010. I hope I can clear up some of the confusion.

The first place to look for the answer to the question of whether HST apply to imports into Ontario, you need to look at the Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement Between The Government of Canada and The Government of Ontario ("CITCA-O").  Part VIII of the CITCA-O addresses imports and provides as follows:

23. In this Part, unless otherwise defined for the purposes of Part IX of the Excise Tax Act, the term “non-commercial imported goods" means imported goods, other than goods imported into Canada for sale or for any commercial, industrial, occupational, institutional or other like use.

24. Unless otherwise provided in this Part, the importation into Canada of non-commercial imported goods by, or for, a consumer that is a resident (including a “seasonal resident" as defined for the purposes of the Seasonal Residents’ Remission Order, 1991) of the Province will be subject to the PVAT in respect of the Province in accordance with the rules generally applicable to the importation of goods into Canada under Part IX of the Excise Tax Act, and any other special rules under that Part developed for purposes of the PVAT in respect of the Province.

25. Canada will neither assess nor collect under this agreement any product-specific tax, levy or mark-up imposed by the Province in respect of the importation of goods subject to a specific tax collection agreement between Canada and the Province.

26. The PVAT in respect of the Province will not be applicable to the importation into Canada of any goods other than non-commercial imported goods in accordance with the rules under Part IX of the Excise Tax Act, and any other special rules under that Part developed for purposes of the PVAT in respect of the Province.

27. Goods, other than non-commercial imported goods, which are imported into Canada for consumption or use, or for supply in whole or in part, otherwise than in the course of commercial activities, in the Province by a person, will be subject to self-assessment of the PVAT in respect of the Province by the person in accordance with the rules under Part IX of the Excise Tax Act, and any other special rules under that Part developed for purposes of the PVAT in respect of the Province. PVAT in respect of the Province will also apply through the self-assessment provisions under Division IV of that Part.

28. The Province will assess and collect, at the time of vehicle registration in the Province, any PVAT in respect of the Province payable in respect of motor vehicles imported into Canada as non-commercial imported goods.

The BC CITCA has similar provisions.

What this all means is:

Rule 1. HST (called PVAT in the CITCA-O) is payable in respect of non-commercial imports of goods and will be collected by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the border. For example, if an individual purchases a kindle from amazon.com for personal use, HST will be applicable. Generally speaking, if the importer does not have an import number (the RM extension on a business number), the CBSA will consider the importer to be bringing in non-commercial imports. Also, if the importer appears to be an individual and the "ship to" address is residential, the CBSA will consider the importer to be bringing in non-commercial imports. Please note that goods and services tax ("GST") will also be applicable.

Rule 2. There are exceptions to Rule 1. If an imported good is a non-taxable supply, an exempt supply or a zero-rated supply, HST will not be applicable. The import documentation (the B3 Customs Coding Form) will have to indicate the proper code in order to be relieved of HST.

Rule 3. Commercial importations of goods will not be subject to HST. That is, if a business imports goods, the CBSA will not impose HST at the border. The CBSA will still collect the GST.

Rule 4. In addition to Rule 3, Commercial importations of goods by businesses for consumption or use, or for supply in whole or in part, otherwise than in the course of commercial activities, in the Province by a person will be subject to HST and the importer will be required to self-assess any applicable HST on its GST/HST return. Depending on the place of supply rules, the HST rate applicable to the relevant province will apply.

Rule 5. Businesses that are residents in an HST province that are not engaged in commercial activities or import services and/or intangible property for consumption or use  or supply in whole or in part otherwise than in commercial activities (meaning in exempt activities) will be required to self-assess applicable HST on imported taxable supplies of services and/or intangible property.

If you require additional guidance, please refer to the old GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin for the Maritime HST provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Newfoundland/Labrador) TIB-081 "Application of HST to Imports" Note: when reading TIB-081, please remember that the place of supply rules are changing and TIB-081 will have to be updated.

Please be mindful of the CBSA's D-Memo D13-3-13 "Post-Importation Payments or Fees: Subsequent Proceeds" which takes the position that certain management and administrative fees and amounts paid by the importer to the exporter (or subsidiary to parent) after importation must be added to the price paid or payable. This could result in additional GST and HST being payable in respect of imported taxable supplies or property and/services. You will also have to be careful to ensure that some services that are added to the price payable for goods (and reported on a B2 Adjustment) are not duplicated in a self-assessment of GST/HST on a GST/HST return.

HST Place of Supply Rules for Customs Brokers

On February 25, 2010, the Department of Finance released a News Release about what will be the HST place of supply rules after regulations are promulgated. Interestingly, the Department of Finance is going to create a separate rule for customs brokerage services. "Customs brokerage services" are currently understood to mean:

"a service of arranging for the release of imported goods, or fulfilling, in respect of the importation, (whether before, at the time of or after the release) any accounting,, reporting or information requirements imposed under the Customs Act or the Customs Tariff Act or any requirements under either of those Acts to remit any amount."

Since I wrote on March 17, 2010 about the HST rules for imports, I thought I should share the funny little place of supply rules for customs brokers services.

In the February 25, 2010 News Release, the Department of Finance wrote:

Under the current rules, the place of supply of a service of arranging for the release of imported goods, or fulfilling, in respect of the importation, (whether before, at the time of or after the release) any accounting,, reporting or information requirements imposed under the Customs Act or the Customs Tariff Act or any requirements under either of those Acts to remit any amount is in a province if the goods are situated in that province at the time of their release.

It is proposed that this rule continue to apply in respect of commercial goods. However, in the case of non-commercial goods, generally if the provincial component of HST for a participating province is imposed in respect of the importation of the goods, the supply of the customs brokerage service will be regarded as made in that participating province.

The above rules will not apply to the supply of any service provided in relation to an objection, appeal, re-determination, re-appraisal, review, refund, abatement, remission or drawback, or in relation to a request for any of the foregoing. These types of services will continue to be subject to the place of supply rules for services described in other parts of this document.

The changes to the Excise Tax Act or the Regulations still have to be made public and must undergo the applicable legislative steps to become law.

The CRA clarifies the place of supply rules in GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin B-103 "Harmonized Sales Tax: Place of suppy rules for determining whether a supply is made in a province" as follows:

Rule #1: If the importation is commercial goods (for which HST is not collected), the place of supply of the customs brokerage and related services is in the province in which the goods are released. Therefore, if the goods are released at Toronto Pearson Airport, the Ontario HST would apply. If the goods are released at the Vancouver Port, then British Columbia HST will apply.

However, if goods are placed in a bonded warehouse in Montreal, HST would not be applicable to the brokerage charges.

Rule #2: If the customs brokerage services relate to an objection, appeal, re-determination, re-appraisal, review, refund, abatement, remission or drawback, or in relation to a request for any of the foregoing (called herein "post-importation customs brokerage services"), Rule #1 does not apply. The general place of supply rules for services would be applicable.

The 5 main place of supply rules for services are applied in the following order:

(a) If the recipient's address or the address most closely connected with the supply in in the HST Zone, the applicable HST rate would be applied to the post-importation customs brokerage services;

(b) If the recipient does not have a Canadian address, the post-importation customs brokerage services will be considered to be supplied in the province in which the greatest proportion of the services is performed. For example, if the customs broker is located in Ontario and a customs broker in Ontario completes the B2 adjustments/appeals, then Ontario HST would apply.

(c) If 2 applies and the post-importation customs brokerage services are performed equally in two or more particular HST provinces, the HST province with the highest HST rate would be considered to be the place of supply.

(d) If 3 applies but a single HST province cannot be identified (same 13% rate in more than one province), the post-importation customs brokerage services will be subject to 13% HST.

(e) If the recipient does not have a Canadian address and the customs brokerage service is not performed primarily in an HST province or the HST Zone, then HST would not apply to the post-importation customs brokerage services.

Rule #3: If the importation relates to non-commercial goods, whether HST applies to the customs brokerage service will depend on whether the goods are subject to HST under the place of supply rules for goods. 

Proposed HST Place of Supply Rule For Real Property Is Relatively Straight-Forward

On February 25, 2010, Canada's Department of Finance released its proposed harmonized sales tax (HST) place of supply rules which will be used to determine whether a supplier (Seller) must charge, collect and remit HST in connection with a supply made in Canada and whether a recipient (Buyer) must pay HST in connection with an acquisition or importation and at what rate. Simply put, the proposed HST place of supply rules will be used to determine in which province a supply is considered to have occurred for HST purposes.

The proposed place of supply rule for real property is relatively straight-forward. With respect to the place of supply rule for real property, the Department of Finance did not make any changes to the current rule applicable in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, & Newfoundland and Labrador.

A supply of real property will be considered to be made in the province in which the real property is situated. If the real property being supplied is located in British Columbia, HST will be applicable at the rate of 12%. If the real property being supplied is located in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Newfoundland and Labrador, HST will be applicable at the rate of 13%. If the real property being supplied is located in Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta or one of the three territories, HST will not be applicable. However, GST would be applicable at the rate of 5%.

The Department of Finance provides the following example:

    A sale of a warehouse situated in Sarnia, Ontario will be subject to HST at a rate of 13 per cent (a 5 per cent federal component and an 8 per cent Ontario component).

Some other examples would be:

  • A sale of timber lands situated in British Columbia will be subject to HST at a rate of 12 per cent (a 5 per cent federal component and an 7 per cent British Columbia component).
  • A sale of vacant land situated in Goderich, Ontario will be subject to HST at a rate of 13 per cent (a 5 per cent federal component and an 8 per cent Ontario component).
  • A sale of a resource property (the land component) in Alberta, will not be subject to HST, but will be subject to GST.

In addition, the supply of an interest in real property is considered to be a supply of real property and the HST place of supply rules for real property would apply. For example, an option to purchase real property would be considered to be real property. If a recipient pays an amount for the right to purchase a leased factory in 10 years, the payment would subject to HST if the factory is located in the HST Zone (British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Newfoundland and Labrador.

The lease of real property is also considered to be a supply of real property. For example, a lease of office space in Toronto, Ontario will be subject to HST at a rate of 13 per cent (a 5 per cent federal component and an 8 per cent Ontario component).

If a company in Ontario leases a commercial office building in British Columbia, the supply of real property will be considered to be made in British Columbia. As a result, HST would be imposed at a rate of 12 per cent (a 5 per cent federal component and an 7 per cent British Columbia component) despite the fact the company is incorporated under the laws of Ontario. The key fact is that the real property that is being leased is located in British Columbia.

There will be situations where a person owns real property in more than one Canadian province and transfers all or some of its assets to another person. For example, a large Canadian company with real property assets in Ontario and Quebec sells all of the assets of its business. In this case, it is proposed that the place of supply rules will deem there to have been separate supplies of real property in Ontario and Quebec. The transfer of the real property located in Ontario would be subject to HST at a rate of 13 per cent (a 5 per cent federal component and an 8 per cent Ontario component). The transfer of the real property located in Quebec would be subject to GST at a rate of 5 per cent and would not be subject to HST (would be subject to QST).

Conversely, a payment made to break a real property lease would be considered to be a supply of real property and would be subject to HST if the real property is located in the HST Zone.

HST Place of Supply Rules for Services

Warning: On April 30, 2010 the Department of Finance released draft place of supply rules regulations that supersede/override the information in this post.  Please do not rely on the information in this post.

Harmonized Sales Tax (“HST") will become a reality in Ontario and British Columbia on July 1, 2010. And some businesses are required to start collecting HST as of May 1, 2010.

Businesses in the HST Zone  - Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador - will have to use the newly released place of supply rules, some of which are different from the existing place of supply rules (for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador). The applicable HST rates are:

  • Ontario: 13% (5% GST and 8% provincial HST component)
  • British Columbia: 12% (5% GST and 7% provincial HST component)
  • Nova Scotia: 13% (5% GST and 8% provincial HST component)
  • New Brunswick: 13% (5% GST and 8% provincial HST component)
  • Newfoundland/Labrador: 13% (5% GST and 8% provincial HST component)

In addition, some businesses outside the HST Zone will be required to charge, collect, and remit HST to the Federal Government in accordance with the place of supply rules when the place of supply is within the HST Zone.

On February 25, 2010, Canada's Department of Finance released its proposed harmonized sales tax (HST) place of supply rules which will be used to determine whether a supplier must charge, collect and remit HST in connection with a supply made in Canada and whether a recipient must pay HST in connection with an acquisition or importation and at what rate. Simply put, the proposed HST place of supply rules will be used to determine in which province a supply is considered to have occurred for HST purposes.

The HST place of supply rules for services have evolved from the existing rules to reflect the addition of the larger economic provinces of Ontario and British Columbia to the HST Zone.

The first question to ask when applying the HST place of supply rules is: What is being supplied or sold? Is it property (tangible personal property, real property or intangible property) or a service? If the supplier is supplying or providing a service, then the HST place of supply rules for services should be used.

The next question is whether one of the specific place of supply rules applies or the general place of supply rules for services. Determine whether any of the following types of services are being provided and, if so, go to the specific place of supply rule:

  • personal services (e.g., a hair cut)
  • services in relation to real property (e.g., constructing a house);
  • services in relation to intangible property (e.g., designing a trade mark)
  • computer-related services and Internet access;
  • telecommunication services;
  • premium rate telephone services;
  • services in relation to a location specific event (e.g., participation in a conference);
  • passenger transportation services;
  • services supplied on board conveyances;
  • baggage charges;
  • services of child supervision;
  • services related to a ticket, voucher or reservation;
  • freight transportation services;
  • postage and delivery services;
  • customs brokerage services;
  • air navigation services;
  • repairs, maintenance, cleaning, alterations and other services relating to goods;
  • service of a trustee in respect of a trust governed by an RRSP, RRIF or RESP.

If the supplier is not providing any of the above listed specific services (and note the devil may be in the details or the unpublished legislation or regulations), then the general place of supply rules for services will apply. There are 4 general place of supply rules for services, which must be applied in the following order. Rule #1 and Rule # 2 are the fundamental rules. Rules #3 and Rule #4 are tie-breaker rules.

Rule #1: If a supply of a service is made and, in the normal course of business, the supplier obtains a particular address of the recipient that is

(a) a home or business address in Canada of the recipient,

(b) where the supplier obtains more than one home or business address in Canada of the recipient, the home or business address that is most closely connected with the supply, or

(c) where the supplier does not obtain a home or business address in Canada of the recipient, another Canadian address that is most closely connected with the supply,

the supply will be regarded as made in the province in which the particular address is situated.

NOTE: The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has indicated that it will release additional guidance on how they plan to interpret the "most closely connected with the supply" requirement. The CRA plans on establishing a hierarchy of criteria to apply. The hierarchical criteria will be released in due course. However, we have been informed that the first criteria to apply are not the place of the billing address.

Rule # 2: If, in the normal course of business, an address in Canada of the recipient is not obtained by the supplier of a service, the supply will be regarded as having been made in a participating province if the part of the service that is performed in Canada is performed primarily in the participating provinces. In such instances, the supply will be regarded as made in the participating province in which the greatest proportion of the service is performed.

Rule #3: If (a) Rule #2 applies (i.e., no address in Canada of the recipient is obtained and the service that is performed in Canada is performed primarily in the participating provinces), and (b) a single participating province cannot be determined as being the participating province in which the greatest proportion of the service is performed because the service is performed equally in two or more particular participating provinces, then the supply will be regarded as made in the particular participating province for which the rate of the provincial component of HST is highest.

Rule #4: If Rule 3 applies, but a single participating province still cannot be determined to be the place of supply because the particular rate of the provincial component of the HST in two or more of the particular participating provinces is the same, the supplier will be required to charge HST by applying that particular rate. In other words, if 3 applies, but a single HST province cannot be identified (same 13% rate in more than one province), the services will be subject to 13% HST.

The application of the HST place of supply rules in any given situation may be a complicated legal task.

Would You Like To Play Audit Roulette In Ontario?

Last week at the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants Commodity Tax Symposium West in Calgary, a representative of Ontario stated to the audience that Ontario planned to conduct retail sales tax audits of most businesses in the next two years.

Pursuant to the Retail Sales Tax Act (Ontario), the normal audit period is four years. The audit period may be extended where there has been a misrepresentation attributable to neglect, carelessness or wilful default.

This is important to know because after the implementation of the harmonized sales tax (HST) on July 1, 2010, the Ontario Government will want to make sure that it has received all the retail sales tax required under the law as it was prior to HST. Just because we are moving to the HST, retail sales tax liabilities will continue. Auditors will continue to visit businesses (some would say plague businesses - but that is not very nice).

Businesses are now playing audit roulette. Will the auditor find the retail sales tax problems/mistakes that the business has been ignoring?

Businesses have three primary choices:

1. Continue to play audit roulette by continuing to ignore legacy retail sales tax problems;

2. Conduct an internal audit or control audit with a sales tax lawyer, accountant or consultant, identify the existing problems, and make a voluntary disclosure to report the mistakes to the Ministry of Revenue (come clean so to speak); and

3. Conduct an internal audit or control audit with a sales tax lawyer, accountant or consultant, identify the existing problems/mistakes and improved the processes and retroactively solve the problems to reduce exposure. For example, if a business sells goods that will be incorporated into goods for resale or will be resold by the purchaser, the business may ensure its purchase exemption certificates are in order. Another example would be that if a business should have collected tax on a transaction, they may send an invoice to the customer and remit the tax to the Ontario Government. Another example would be that if a business imported goods and failed to report and pay retail sales tax in respect of the importation, they may do so before an auditor knows on the door.

In addition, vendors and customers should communicate with each other about audits as the Minister is not entitled to impose a penalty on a vendor who failed to collect tax and assess the buyer for failure to pay tax on the same transaction --- the Minister cannot receive the same tax from both parties.

Audits take up the human resources of company officials and interfere with the operation of the business. Proactive steps by a business does save money, time and aggravation.

HST Place of Supply Rules for Litigators and Those Who Provide Litigation Services

Warning: On April 30, 2010 the Department of Finance released draft place of supply rules regulations that supersede/override the information in this post.  Please do not rely on the information in this post.

The HST place of supply rules include a specific rules for "services rendered in connection with litigation". These rules apply to lawyers, process servers, transcription service providers, those who provide expert opinions in connection with litigation, etc.

Rule #1: The general place of supply rules for services will apply to criminal, civil or administrative litigation services provided prior to the commencement of such litigation.  The general place of supply rule focuses on the billing address of the client and the place where the services are performed..  There is a hierarchy of 4 place of supply rules that are applied in order.

For example, if a person hires a lawyer to discuss whether the facts warrant litigation, the general rules apply.  If a person hires a lawyer to sue an opponent and discussions lead to a settlement before a statement of claim is filed with the Court, the general place of supply rules would apply. 

Rule #2: The general rules for services will not apply to litigation services rendered after the commencement of litigation. In other words, if there is an initiating document (such as a statement of claim) Rule 2 applies and Rule 1 does not apply.

Rule #3: If litigation has commenced, a supply of a service rendered in connection with criminal, civil or administrative litigation in an HST province will be regarded as being made in that HST province.  In other words, if the litigation is in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and you have a court file number assigned, HST at the rate of 13% applies.

Rule #4: If litigation has commenced, a supply of a service rendered in connection with criminal, civil or administrative litigation in a non-HST province (e.g., Alberta) will be regarded as being made in that non-HST province.  In other words, if the litigation is in Alberta and you have a court file number assigned, HST will not be applicable to the services in connection with the litigation (however GST will be applicable).

Rule #5: If a supply of services in respect of litigation is supplied to a non-resident of Canada, the zero-rating provisions may apply to both the GST and HST component. The HST place of supply rules do not override the zero-rating provisions for exported services and professional services.

The HST place of supply rules do not currently distinguish between federal court litigation and provincial court litigation. As a result, it is not clear whether filing a Tax Court of Canada case in Alberta will save the litigants HST.  It is also not clear whether all pre-hearing meetings and the trial must take place in Alberta if the case is filed in Alberta.

It is also not clear whether all cases filed with the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, which is located in Ottawa, will be subject to Ontario HST at 13% even if the affected litigant is located in Alberta. The same confusion will hold true for many other administrative tribunals with all the powers of a superior court of record, such as the CRTC, the Competition Bureau, to name a few. There are a number of federal statutes that create administrative tribunals and a number of federal statutes establish appeal rights only to that federal tribunal that happens to be located in the nation's capital, Ottawa, which is located in the HST Zone. it will be interesting to watch whether access to justice issues are raised by persons (such as individuals) who cannot recover HST costs.

Another question is whether an arbitration is "litigation" under the place of supply rules and, therefore, subject to the specific place of supply rule discussed above that bases the application of HST on the place of the filing. If the Canada Revenue Agency takes the position that an arbitration is caught by the rules, arbitration centres in the HST Zone may not be popular with Canadian parties. Also, business law lawyers and in-house counsel may have to reconsider contractually stipulating that Ontario or British Columbia as the place of arbitration in contracts.

Lawyers should consider whether their clients can save HST based on the place of filing and should start asking the questions as part of their litigation strategy now --- given that litigation filed today will likely continue after HST implementation.

Lawyers and service providers should also recognize that the place of supply rule for pre-filing services is different than post-filing litigation services. Therefore, one file might involve a change in the HST rate. When this happens, it is best to open a new file at the time of the filing of the initiating document.

HST Place of Supply Rules for Goods: Suppliers Outside HST Zone Also Affected

On February 25, 2010, Canada's Department of Finance released its proposed harmonized sales tax (HST) place of supply rules which will be used to determine whether a supplier must charge, collect and remit HST in connection with a supply made in Canada and whether a recipient must pay HST in connection with an acquisition or importation and at what rate. Simply put, the proposed HST place of supply rules will be used to determine in which province a supply is considered to have occurred for HST purposes.

The proposed HST place of supply rules for tangible personal property (goods) may surprise sellers of goods located in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. Based on the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) views, some suppliers located in non-HST provinces may be required to charge, collect and remit HST. All suppliers of goods in Canada may need to consider whether they want to continue to ship goods to recipients in the HST Zone (and in particular Ontario and British Columbia). Some sellers of goods need to start working quickly to update their computer systems and accounting systems to account for HST on supplies of goods.

The proposed HST Place of Supply Rules to be in effect after July 1, 2010 are:

Rule #1: A supply of goods by way of sale is deemed to be made in a province if the supplier (Seller) of the goods delivers the goods or makes the goods available to the recipient (Buyer) in the province. For example, if an individual goes into a store in Ontario and purchases goods (e.g., a television), the store would charge HST at the rate of 13% (5% GST and 8% Ontario HST). The key fact is the place of delivery.

CRA Example: A supplier in Ontario agrees to sell to a purchaser in British Columbia. Based on the terms of delivery in the agreement for the supply of goods, legal delivery of the goods to the purchaser occurs in British Columbia.

CRA Position: The CRA takes the position that because legal delivery of the goods to the purchaser occurs in British Columbia, the supply of the goods is made in British Columbia and the supply will be subject to HST a rate of 12%.

CRA Example: A retailer in Ontario sells goods to a purchaser that is a resident of British Columbia and is visiting Ontario. The purchaser picks up the goods at the retailer's premises in Ontario and then transports the goods to British Columbia.

CRA Position: The goods are delivered to the purchaser in Ontario. The supply of goods is therefore made in Ontario and is proposed to be subject to HST at a rate of 13%.

Rule #2: A supply of goods by way of sale is deemed to be made inside the HST Zone (British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador) if the legal delivery of the goods is made in that province. For the purposes of this rule, goods are deemed to be delivered in the HST Zone, and not outside the HST Zone, if the supplier either:

  • (a) ships the property to a destination in the HST Zone that is specified in the contract for shipment of the goods;
  • (b) transfers possession of the goods to a common carrier or consignee that the supplier has retained on behalf of the recipient (Buyer) to ship the goods to a destination in the HST Zone; or
  • (c) sends the goods by mail or courier to an address in the HST Zone.

Pursuant to this rule, Incoterms, such as F.O.B. (freight or board) or C.I.F. (cost, insurance freight) are important if the location stated is within the HST Zone.

CRA Example: A supplier in Alberta agrees to sell goods to a purchaser in Ontario. Based on the terms in the agreement for the supply of the goods, legal delivery of the goods to the purchaser occurs in Alberta. However, the supplier agrees to have the goods shipped to the purchaser in Ontario.

CRA Position: Although legal delivery of the goods to the purchaser occurs in Alberta, delivery of the goods to the purchaser is deemed to occur in Ontario because the supplier ships the goods to Ontario. The supply of goods is therefore made in Ontario and is proposed to be subject to HST at a rate of 13%.

CRA Example: A mail-order company located in Nova Scotia sells greeting cards to customers across Canada. The company places the packages of greeting cards in the mail for delivery to customers in Ontario and British Columbia.

CRA Position: The supply of greeting cards mailed to Ontario is made in Ontario and is proposed to be subject to HST at a rate of 13%. The supply of greeting cards mailed to British Columbia is made in British Columbia and is proposed to be subject to HST at a rate of 12%.

Rule #3: Where a recipient of a supply of goods by way of lease, license or similar arrangement (Lessee) subsequently exercises an option to purchase the goods, the recipient lessee is deemed to take delivery by way of sale at the time and place at which the recipient lessee ceased to have possession of the property as a lessee and begins to have possession of the property as a purchaser. The key fact is the location of the goods at the time the option to purchase is exercised.

For example, if a person in Ontario leases a piece of manufacturing equipment from a lessor in Quebec and exercises an option to purchase the equipment at a late date when the equipment is in Ontario, HST will be applicable at a rate of 13% in respect of the option price.

The rate of HST will depend on which HST Zone province is the destination.

Rule #4: Where a supply of goods is made by way of lease, license or similar arrangement (other than a specified motor vehicle) (e.g. an equipment lease) for consideration that is attributed to a period (referred to as a "lease interval") and the lease, license or similar arrangement exceeds three months, the supply is deemed to be made in the HST Zone if the ordinary location of the property is within the HST Zone.

For the purposes of the place of supply rules, the ordinary location of the property is deemed to be the location where the supplier and the recipient mutually agree. This is a concession because the supplier may not be in the best position to know where the recipient has the goods. The CRA states that, "In other words, the mutual agreement of the supplier and the recipient will be determinative even where the property is actually located in a different place at the relevant time than what had been agreed upon."

The CRA will look to the contract and any subsequent amendments to agreements to determine the location of the leased goods.

A separate supply of the goods is deemed to be made for each lease interval of the earliest of the first day of the lease interval, the day on which the lease payment attributable to the lease interval becomes due and the day the payment is made.

Rule #5: Where a supply of goods is made by way of lease, license or similar arrangement (other than a specified motor vehicle) (e.g. an equipment lease) and the lease, license or similar arrangement does not exceed three months, the supply is deemed to be made in province in which the supplier delivers the goods or makes the goods available to the recipient. For the purposes of this rule, goods are deemed to be delivered in the HST Zone, and not outside the HST Zone, if the supplier either:

  • (a) ships the property to a destination in the HST Zone that is specified in the contract for shipment of the goods;
  • (b) transfers possession of the goods to a common carrier or consignee that the supplier has retained on behalf of the recipient (Buyer) to ship the goods to a destination in the HST Zone; or
  • (c) sends the goods by mail or courier to an address in the HST Zone.

Harmonized Sales Tax's Restricted Input Tax Credits Rules Means Not 100% Recovery For All Ontario Businesses

The Ontario government will harmonize the provincial retail sales tax (RST) with the federal goods and services tax (GST) on July 1st, 2010. One of the benefits being discussed in certain circles as a reason to support harmonization is that  Ontario businesses will receive input tax credits (ITCs) and recover harmonized sales tax (HST) and GST paid on business purchases. They say business will essentially be able to recover the 13% paid on business purchases, including the HST component paid on previously non-taxable and exempt purchases for RST purposes.

However, this is not quite correct.  Not all businesses in Ontario will benefit immediately to the tune of 13% ITCs. Specifically, businesses with annual taxable supplies greater than $10 million (including corporate groups and related companies), as well as certain financial institutions, municipalities, charities, universities, colleges and schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc., will be restricted from claiming ITCs for the provincial portion (currently 8 per cent) of the HST, until 2015.

The restricted ITCs are on a few business inputs, such as certain uses of energy; certain telecommunications services; certain road vehicles and their fuel; and food, beverages and entertainment. The ITCs restrictions will be in place for the first five years of the HST, after which ITCs on the exempt items will be phased out over the following three year period.

Ontario has released an Information Notice on Restricted Input Tax Credits to provide additional information to businesses.

Sales Tax Tip: Ask to Include the Auditor's Manager in Discussions

First, I should say, DO NOT CALL WOLF. Asking to include to the auditor's manager or the senior manager at a meeting with you (the vendor or taxpayer) and the auditor should be used in limited (but greater than occasional) circumstances. If you ask for a meeting, the general rule is that a meeting must be arranged.

In this blog post, I focus on Ontario retail sales tax. However, the concept also applies to goods and services tax (GST).

I have asked for a meeting with the auditor's manager or senior manager when there is a fundamental disagreement of the applicability to a taxing provision to a client's situation. I have asked for a meeting when the auditor does not appear to understand the facts (often the facts are complex) and I feel that the auditor is going to raise an assessment incorrectly. I ask for a meeting with the auditor's manager when there is a serious personality conflict between my client and the auditor (it has happened) and I feel that the auditor may be biased and intent on punishing my client.

I do not ask to speak to the auditor's manager to intimidate the auditor - it does not work. I do not ask to speak to the auditor's manager regarding little issues. I do not ask to speak to the auditor's manager on the first day of the audit. I do not ask to speak to the auditor's manager when my client is clearly in the wrong.

In Ontario, if a retail sales tax assessment is issued, then the auditor's job is complete and the only recourse a vendor or taxpayer has is to file a notice of objection. It currently takes over 2 years for a notice of objection to be reviewed by the Ontario Ministry of Revenue Tax Appeals Branch. Usually, the tax assessment must be paid within 18 months and interest continues to accrue. For this reason, I feel it is my role to make sure the auditor gets the assessment correct.

If I receive an audit summary (which is a summary of the auditor's findings), which usually precedes the actual assessment, I ask for the reasons for the assessment. When there is a disagreement over the law or an interpretation of the law, an administrative statement or a court decision, I ask to speak to the auditor's manager, who usually has more discretion and more experience. Sometimes I for the auditor to write Tax Advisory for a ruling and that I will help with the facts so that the answer received is more likely to be correct (does not always happen that way).

There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive, proactive and reactive. That being said, recently, managers have agreed with me (when I have known that i am correct) and some assessments have been reduced (1) Case 1: from over $1 million to close to $0, (2) Case 2: from approximately $500,000 to about $25,000 and (3) Case 3: by over $300,000. These results obviously depended on the particular circumstances of the file.

Make An HST CheckList

Harmonized Sales Tax (“HST") will become a reality in Ontario and British Columbia on July 1, 2010. However, some businesses will be required to start collecting HST on May 1, 2010. In addition, some businesses outside the HST Zone ( HST Zone = Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland/Labrador) will also be required to charge collect and remit HST to the Federal Government in accordance with the place of supply rules when the place of supply is within the HST Zone.

It is time to make a “To-Do" list to get ready for HST. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) has released an HST checklist this week.

The CFIB list applies for businesses with gross revenues less than $10 million. This is not limited to corporations, trusts, partnerships or sole proprietorships, it also includes family of businesses that are related to each other as the threshold test would be applicable to persons and their related entities.

The checklist below builds on the CFIB list is as follows:

  • Formulate an internal committee of persons who will oversee the HST conversion - the group includes more than top management and the tax specialist/chief financial officer. Plan to meet weekly and prepare checklists.
  • Calculate a budget to address HST conversion issues, including information technology programmers to update your systems and advisors on HST.
  • Contact the persons in your business responsible for information technology as they will be on the front-lines in updating your computer systems.
  • Conduct a sales side audit and determine whether the supplies made by your business are subject to HST. Your business may be required to charge HST on goods that were not subject to retail sales tax.
  • Update sales equipment (e.g. cash registers) and computer systems in order to properly charge HST.
  • Ensure your invoices properly state whether HST is applicable, the HST rate, your GST/HST registration number, and all other information required by the input tax credit regulations.
  • Consider whether your business may offer point of sale rebates and make adjustments to record-keeping.
  • Conduct a purchase side audit and determine whether your purchases are subject to HST. HST will affect what you sell and what you buy. Purchase exemption certificates will no longer be usable when your business buys what were previously RST exempt goods, such as goods that are purchased to be resupplied.
  • Determine your largest expense items and review your largest contracts to determine what will change with the implementation of HST.
  • Identify which suppliers to your business may not be sophisticated enough about HST and ensure they charge the correct amount of HST. Since the Canada Revenue Agency may assess both suppliers and recipients, purchasers have a duty to check the invoicing of their suppliers.
  • Consider whether HST will affect your cash flow and make arrangements for credit. Commercial rent, inventory, electricity, production equipment & machinery, goods purchased for resupply, custom computer software, etc will be subject to HST (and was not subject to RST).
  • Review the transition rules to see when you must start to collect HST or pay HST and when you must self-assess HST.  It can be as early as May 1, 2010.
  • Determine whether the restricted ITC rules apply to your business/related businesses. If your business is over the $10 million threshold, you will not be able to recover HST paid on certain purchases for the first three years of HST. You will be required to set up accounting records to track and report restricted input tax credits on a province-by-province basis. The reporting on HST returns will start on July 2010 GST/HST return, which must be filed electronically.
  • Determine whether you are required to file GST/HST returns electronically, what method of filing electronically your business must use and make arrangements to be able to file electronically starting in July 2010.
  • Determine whether the place of supply rules require your business to charge HST. If your business operates in more than one province, the assessment must be made on a province-by-province and supply-by-supply basis.
  • Set up accounting records for each applicable HST province.
  • Establish internal policies and procedures to ensure HST is properly charged
  • Prepare written materials for sales staff to follow and train your staff on HST.
  • Update sales equipment so that HST is charged at the point of sale.
  • Update computerized payments so that HST is charged where applicable. In some cases, computer programs will need to be rewritten/updated so that the place of delivery (e.g. goods) is reviewed in determining whether HST is applicable.
  • Adjust online payment software or web interfaces used for selling via the Internet (or receiving payments for services and intangibles via the Internet) to reflect the applicable HST rates.
  • Update the information communicated on websites.
  • Prepare and publish new written materials if the publications include information on sales taxes charged.
  • Update internal computer/record keeping, record keeping on input tax credit claims, rebates, refunds, etc., accounts payable record keeping, accounting records on meals and entertainment expenses and taxable benefit calculations.
  • Update internal reports - e.g., expense reports spreadsheets, employee cars, inter company transactions, etc..
  • Determine whether your business must pay HST on imported goods, services and/or intangible property.
  • Determine whether any inter company payments are subject to HST and make adjustments to records and expectations.
  • Take steps to ensure that the business stops collecting retail sales tax/social services tax on July 1, 2010 and that the final returns are prepared
  • Prepare PST/RST/SST records to be audited as both Ontario and British Columbia have said they plan to conduct four years of audits in the next two years.
  • Consider whether the job descriptions of employees need to be updated to reflect HST responsibilities.
  • Public relations - consider whether you need to educate your customers about HST.

This list is not all-inclusive.

New GST/HST Electronic Filing Requirements Announced

To little fanfare and no media attention, on January 4, 2010, The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture and Agri-Food) announced proposed changes to electronic filing requirements for goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) registrants beginning July 1, 2010.

The reason for the electronic filing requirements is that the Canada Revenue Agency needs to gather information so that the Department of Finance can communicate information to Ontario and British Columbia pursuant to the CITCAs (a.k.a. HST Agreements).

Currently, only GST/HST registrants who meet the criteria set by the Minister of National Revenue have the option to use electronic filing. As a result of the proposed changes, restrictions will be removed so that all registrants, including those registrants that file a return with Revenu Québec, will be able to file electronically.

Under the new proposed measures, the following groups will be required to file their GST/HST returns electronically:

  • GST/HST registrants with greater than $1.5 million in annual taxable supplies (except for charities); or
  • all registrants required to recapture input tax credits for the provincial portion of the HST on certain inputs in Ontario or British Columbia; or
  • builders affected by the transitional housing measures announced by Ontario or British Columbia.

In general, charities and most GST/HST registrants with annual taxable supplies of $1.5 million or less will not be affected by these changes, although the CRA is encouraging all GST/HST registrants, regardless of their filing frequency and reporting requirements, to use electronic services.

Regulations specifying the persons and classes of persons who will be required to file an electronic return will be available soon (government has been prorogued).

The CRA will offer several electronic filing options for GST/HST registrants. However, many registrants will not have an option and will be forced to use a particular electronic filing method.

  • GST/HST NETFILE
    • Netfile is a free Internet-based filing service that allows registrants to file their returns directly to the CRA over the Internet. To file using GST/HST NETFILE, registrants complete an online form, enter the required information and confirm that they want to file their return. Once the registrant hits <submit></submit></submit><//submit>a confirmation page will immediately be displayed containing the six-digit confirmation number.
    • It is proposed that the following GST/HST registrants would be required to file an electronic return using GST/HST NETFILE effective for the first reporting period that ends on or after July 1, 2010:
    • any registrants that are required to recapture ITCs on the provincial portion of the HST on certain inputs in Ontario or British Columbia (see below); and
    • builders that
      • make sales of grandparented housing where the purchaser is not entitled to claim a GST/HST new housing rebate or new residential rental property rebate;
      • make sales of housing that are subject to the HST where the builder purchased the housing on a grandparented basis;
      • are required to report a transitional tax adjustment amount; or
      • report provincial transitional new housing rebates (see below).
    • In conjunction with these proposed new filing requirements, the CRA will include new information fields on the GST/HST NETFILE return for these registrants.

  • GST/HST TELEFILE
    • Telefile allows eligible registrants to file their GST/HST returns using their touch-tone telephone and a toll-free number.
    • It is also proposed that each builder having greater than $1.5 million in annual taxable supplies that is not otherwise required to file using GST/HST NETFILE and that pays or credits a GST/HST new housing rebate amount to the purchaser and claims that amount as a deduction from the builder’s GST/HST liability would be required to file an electronic return using GST/HST NETFILE or GST/HST TELEFILE effective for the first reporting period that ends on or after July 1, 2010.

    • As a result of the proposed changes, the CRA will include new information fields on the GST/HST NETFILE and GST/HST TELEFILE returns for these registrants.

  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
    • EDI is a computer-to-computer exchange of information in a standard format. Eligible registrants can use EDI to file their GST/HST returns and remit their GST/HST payments electronically.
  • GST/HST Internet File Transfer (GIFT)
    • GIFT is a new option that allows eligible registrants to utilize third-party CRA certified accounting software to file their returns electronically.
    • It is also proposed that all GST/HST registrants, other than those required to file using GST/HST NETFILE or GST/HST TELEFILE and with greater than $1.5 million in annual taxable supplies, excluding charities, would be required to file an electronic return using GST/HST NETFILE, GST/HST TELEFILE, EDI or GIFT effective for the first reporting period that ends on or after July 1, 2010.

The CRA provides the following chart:

 

 

Type of Business Filing Options

Businesses that:
a) are required to recapture ITCs for the provincial portion of the HST on certain inputs in Ontario or British Columbia; or
b) are builders who sell grandparented housing where the purchaser is not entitled to claim a GST/HST new housing rebate or new residential rental property rebate; or
c) are builders who sell housing subject to the HST where the builder purchased that housing on a grandparented basis; or
d) are builders who are required to remit the transitional tax adjustment on housing; or
e) are builders who are reporting provincial transitional new housing rebates.

GST/HST NETFILE

Unless required to file using GST/HST NETFILE, builders with greater than $1.5 million in annual taxable supplies that pay or credit a GST/HST new housing rebate amount to the purchaser and claim that amount as a deduction from their GST/HST liability.

GST/HST NETFILE
GST/HST TELEFILE

Businesses that are not required to file using GST/HST NETFILE or GST/HST TELEFILE and with annual taxable supplies exceeding $1.5 million, excluding charities.

GST/HST NETFILE
GST/HST TELEFILE
GIFT
EDI

All other businesses.

GST/HST NETFILE
GST/HST TELEFILE
GIFT
EDI
Paper Return

The businesses that I have spoken with suggest that there are complications that need to be considered.  It is necessary to communicate with the Canada Revenue Agency if there are any problems so that notes can be made in your file and accommodations can be discussed.

Ontario Has Passed HST Implmenting Legislation

The "Jaws" theme is playing in the background ....

In December 2009, the formal steps were taken to pass the harmonized sales tax ("HST") implementing legislation in the Ontario Legislature.

Ontario proposed in the 2009 Budget that, effective July 1, 2010, Ontario’s retail sales tax (RST) will be replaced with the HST. The HST will have a combined sales tax rate of 13 per cent (combining the existing five per cent federal goods and services tax (GST) and an eight per cent Ontario component). The HST will be administered by the Canada Revenue Agency. All businesses currently registered for GST will automatically be registered for the Ontario HST on July 1, 2010. 

On December 9, 2009, the Ontario Legislature, Bill 218 "Ontario Tax Plan for More Jobs and Growth Act, 2009" passed third reading and is law. passage occurred despite attempts by the official opposition, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, Opposition Leader Tim Hudak and HST Critic Lisa MacLeod to stop the bill.

Bill 218 implements the "Comprehensive Integrated Tax Coordination Agreement" between Ontario and the Federal Government and the original Memorandum of Agreement Concerning a Canada-Ontario Comprehensive Integrated Tax Co-ordination Agreement" between Ontario and the Federal Government, which started the HST plans in motion.