USA and Canada Holiday Hints
Most Canadian provinces also apply PST, Provincial Sales Tax to purchases levied at a rate of 7% to 10% depending on the province. Details of the rates in each province can be found on the Sales Tax page.
In the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia there is no GST or PST. Instead, HST (Harmonised Sales Tax) is levied at the rate of 15%. HST is a sales tax which combines GST and PST.
Visitors to Canada can obtain a refund for GST paid for some purchases. These include accommodation costs paid in Canada and large non-consumable items. GST paid for petrol (gas), restaurant meals, food items and other consumables cannot be refunded.
PST paid in the Provinces of Québec and Manitoba (at the rates of 6.5% and 7% respectively) can also be refunded, as can HST in those provinces where it applies. PST is called TVQ in Québec, being the initials of the French language equivalent phrase.
The total value (excluding taxes) of the purchases for which you are claiming a GST/HST refund must be at least CAN$200. The value (excluding taxes) of each individual item must be at least CAN$50. These conditions also apply independently for each province for PST refunds.
In order to obtain your refund, firstly obtain a copy of the "Tax Refund For Visitors" leaflet published by Revenue Canada. Some travel agents in Britain can supply this leaflet. It should also be available from the Canadian authorities at border crossings. It may well also be available from immigration officers when arriving in Canada by air.
Be sure to read the leaflet so as to ensure that you meet all the conditions for obtaining a refund.
While in Canada, be sure to keep all your receipts for relevant items. Since the original copies of these receipts must be surrendered and are not returned, you may wish to photocopy them for your own purposes before claiming a refund.
Fill in the form in the leaflet.
You then have two choices:
None of the duty free shops at the border crossings in Alberta process GST/PST/HST refunds.
The duty free shop is always located on the Canadian side, immediately before the border.
You will need you original receipts, your completed GST/PST/HST refund form from the leaflet and your passport. You will also need to supply your car licence number.
The process is long-winded and time consuming but if you have been in Canada for several days the amount of money involved makes it worthwhile.
The refund is paid in cash in Canadian currency, despite the fact that you are about the enter the USA.
This writer feels that the present GST/PST/HST refund system is not working well. Instead of having the intended purpose of leaving visitors to Canada with a positive lasting impression of the country it actually has the opposite effect. The staff in the duty free shop have no incentive to handle GST/PST/HST refunds efficiently or in a friendly manner and this shows in the way they process applications. I feel that it would be far better for the customs officers at all border crossings to handle GST/PST/HST refunds, or for it not to be charged to visitors at the point of sale in the first place. A simple card issued when entering Canada, with an automatic expiry date, could be used to provide proof that the person was a visitor to the country. A number on the card, together with the visitor's signature, could be recorded at the point of sale and used by the seller to prove to the tax authorities that no tax should have levied.
More information on the GST/PST/HST refund system can be obtained from:
Visitor Rebate Program, Revenue Canada, Summerside Tax Centre, Summerside, PE C1N 6C6, Canada.
Toll-free telephone number (from anywhere in Canada): 1-800-66VISIT (1-800-668-4748). In our experience the staff who man this phone number are not well informed regarding the location of participating duty free shops.
Telephone number from outside Canada (normal international phone call rates apply): (902)-432-5608.
Canadian Government - Information For Visitors To Canada (Including Information On GST/PST/HST Sales Tax Refunds) External link checked Jul-00.
Immigration - Visiting Canada From The USA
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Most recently modified 6-Nov-03