Excise and GST/HST Rulings and Interpretations Service

GST/HST Memorandum 1-4
October 2017

This version replaces the one dated April 2015.

This memorandum explains the rulings and interpretations service offered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in respect of the GST/HST, excise tax, excise duty, the air travellers security charge, the tax on insurance premiums, First Nations taxes and the softwood lumber products export charge. It does not, however, deal with income tax rulings. For information on income tax rulings refer to Information Circular IC70-6, Advance Income Tax Rulings.

All technical publications on GST/HST are available at canada.ca/gst-hst-tech.

Revenu Québec generally administers the GST/HST in Quebec. Therefore, if your business is located in Quebec and you wish to make a technical enquiry or request a ruling related to the GST/HST, please contact Revenu Québec at 1-800-567-4692 or visit the Revenu Québec website at revenuquebec.ca

Exception:  Since January 1, 2013, the CRA has been administering the GST/HST and the Québec sales tax (QST) for selected listed financial institutions (SLFIs) for GST/HST and/or QST purposes whether or not they are located in Quebec. If you wish to make a technical enquiry on the GST/HST or the QST that relates to SLFIs, please call 1-855-666-5166.

All legislative references in this publication are to the Excise Tax Act unless otherwise specified. The information in this publication does not replace the law found in the Act and its regulations.

If this information does not completely address your particular situation, you may wish to refer to the Act or relevant regulation, or call GST/HST Rulings at 1-800-959-8287 for additional information. If you require certainty with respect to any particular GST/HST matter, you may request a ruling. This publication explains how to obtain a ruling or an interpretation and lists the GST/HST rulings centres.

GST/HST rates

Reference in this publication is made to supplies that are subject to the GST or the HST. The HST applies in the participating provinces at the following rates: 13% in Ontario and 15% in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The GST applies in the rest of Canada at the rate of 5%. If you are uncertain as to whether a supply is made in a participating province, see GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin B-103, Harmonized Sales Tax – Place of Supply Rules for Determining Whether a Supply is Made in a Province.

General

1. The CRA offers a rulings and interpretations service in respect of taxes and duties on goods and services. This is referred to as the Excise and GST/HST Rulings and Interpretations Service. As part of this service, the CRA issues technical publications and provides a technical telephone enquiry service, in addition to issuing rulings and interpretations on these taxes and duties. The purpose of the Excise and GST/HST Rulings and Interpretations Service is to assist taxpayers (e.g., GST/HST registrants or their representatives, excise tax licensees, excise duty licensees and registrants, and other interested persons) to comply voluntarily with the law by providing them as much information as possible on how the relevant provisions of the applicable legislation affect their operations or transactions.

2. The CRA does not charge a fee for this service.

3. This service applies to the following taxes and duties:

  • the GST/HST under Part IX of the Excise Tax Act;
  • excise taxes under Part III of the Excise Tax Act;
  • excise duty under the Excise Act, 2001 and the Excise Act;
  • the air travellers security charge (ATSC) under the Air Travellers Security Charge Act;
  • the tax on insurance premiums under Part I of the Excise Tax Act;
  • First Nations taxes under the Budget Implementation Act, 2000 and the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act, and other legislation relating to agreements with First Nations;
  • the softwood lumber products export charge under the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006;
  • since January 1, 2013, the Quebec sales tax (QST) for selected listed financial institutions (SLFIs) under An Act Respecting the Québec Sales Tax and the relevant provisions of the Tax Administration Act;
  • the British Columbia (B.C.) transition tax and the B.C. transition rebate under British Columbia’s New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act. For more information, please see the following GST/HST Info Sheets: GI 156, Elimination of the Harmonized Sales Tax in British Columbia: British Columbia Transition Tax on New Housing, and GI-157, Elimination of the Harmonized Sales Tax in British Columbia: British Columbia Transition Rebate for Builders of New Housing.

Technical publications

4. The CRA provides a broad range of technical publications to inform registrants, licensees and the general public about taxes and duties on goods and services. These form part of the overall service of providing taxpayers with information to assist them to voluntarily comply with the legislation. The CRA incorporates the policy content of precedent-setting rulings and interpretations into technical publications when they are updated.

5. The main technical publications are as follows:

6. All the above-noted technical publications are available at these addresses:

7. Persons wishing to receive technical publications may take advantage of the CRA’s electronic subscription service. To obtain details on this service go to canada.ca/cra-email-lists.

Telephone enquiries

8. The CRA provides a service of answering technical enquiries by telephone. While a binding ruling cannot be provided over the telephone, the CRA can provide general interpretations of the legislation or other assistance. After receiving a telephone enquiry, the CRA endeavours to provide a response within one working day.

9. In the course of answering a technical enquiry the CRA officer handling the call may request documentation. The officer may also advise the taxpayer to request a written ruling or interpretation, if the taxpayer requires certainty on how the legislation would apply to their operation or transactions.

10. Appendix A to this memorandum contains information on where to call to make a technical enquiry.

Interpretations

11. An interpretation is a written statement the CRA provides to a taxpayer that sets out the CRA’s view of how the legislation applies to a generic fact situation. An interpretation may also set out the CRA’s general understanding of particular provisions of the legislation, whether proposed or enacted. A taxpayer requesting an interpretation should provide sufficient information to enable the CRA to understand the issues to be considered.

12. Since they do not pertain to specific fact situations, or are based upon provisions that have not yet become law, interpretations are not binding on the CRA.

Rulings

13. A ruling is a written statement the CRA provides to a taxpayer that sets out the CRA’s position on how the relevant provisions of the legislation apply to a clearly defined fact situation of the taxpayer. Usually a ruling relates to ongoing issues or transactions and does not specify time limits. A ruling may also be given in advance of any proposed transaction and may be restricted in its application to specific persons, transactions and/or time periods.

14. The CRA will issue a ruling only when the person requesting the ruling has provided all the relevant facts of a transaction or series of transactions and all supporting documents. Refer to paragraph 35 of this memorandum for details on what information should be provided with the request for a ruling.

15. The CRA will not issue a ruling where the request relates to a hypothetical situation or where it is unable to obtain sufficient facts from the taxpayer. In such cases, the CRA may provide an interpretation of the relevant provisions of the legislation in order to assist the taxpayer in fulfilling their obligations under the law.

16. The CRA considers itself to be bound by the rulings it issues, subject to the limitations outlined in this memorandum.

17. Information provided by taxpayers in the course of a request for a ruling or interpretation is protected under the confidentiality provisions of tax legislation such as the Excise Tax Act, and the Excise Act, 2001, as well as under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The CRA does not release such information to the public. However, rulings and interpretations issued by CRA Headquarters are made available to the public in severed form. Under this process, confidential information (meaning information that reveals the identity of the person to whom it relates) contained in the ruling or interpretation is removed.

18. Appendix A to this memorandum contains information on where to write for a ruling or interpretation.

Limitations on rulings

19. A ruling provided by the CRA is limited in its validity and application by the completeness and accuracy of the information upon which it is based.

20. A ruling applies only to the taxpayer who requests it or on whose behalf it is requested, and only to the issues covered by the ruling.

21. The CRA does not issue rulings on proposed or draft legislation, draft regulations, federal budget proposals, or Notices of Ways and Means motions.  The CRA may, however, issue interpretations based on these documents.

22. The CRA is not bound by a ruling where a subsequent change to the law, the CRA’s interpretation of the law, or administrative policies affects its validity. The CRA ceases to be bound as of the effective date of such a change. The CRA informs the public of such changes by issuing CRA notices, the Excise and GST/HST News, policy statements and other excise and GST/HST publications on its website and providing links to Department of Finance press releases, as well as by liaising with industry associations and, where feasible, contacting individual registrants or licensees. Taxpayers should ensure that they keep current with any legislative, interpretative, or administrative change that may affect their obligations under the law.

23. A ruling may also specify other qualifications as appropriate, e.g., the time limit within which the ruling will apply.

When rulings are revoked

24. When the CRA discovers that a ruling is incorrect, it may revoke or amend it.

25. Where a ruling is incorrect because of an error on the part of the CRA, the revocation or amendment would generally apply as of the date of the revocation letter. However, there may be circumstances where the CRA would consider a request to have the revocation take effect on the date of the original ruling or on another appropriate date.

26. Where a ruling is incorrect because the person that requested the ruling has not provided complete or accurate information, the revocation will apply from the date the original ruling was issued.

Circumstances where a ruling will not be issued

27. The CRA will not issue a ruling when it considers that it would be inappropriate to do so. Circumstances in which the CRA may not issue a ruling include:

  • when a transaction on which a ruling has been requested is the same in character as a transaction completed by the requestor in a prior period, and the application of the relevant legislation to the earlier transaction is under discussion with the requestor, in dispute, or under assessment or proposed assessment, but is not before the courts;
  • when the CRA believes that the request may be in respect of illegal activities;
  • when the request concerns a matter in respect of which a notice of objection filed by the requestor is being considered;
  • when the central issue involves a matter that is before the courts or, if a judgement has been issued, when an appeal to a higher court is being considered;
  • when the request contains alternative courses of action on the part of the person requesting the ruling;
  • when the request is for a determination of the fair market value of property;
  • when a request involves a matter dealing with proposed or draft legislation, draft regulations, budget proposals, or notices of ways and means motions;
  • when the request concerns tax or duty related calculations (e.g., the amount of net tax due for GST/HST purposes or the amount of excise duty payable);
  • when a ruling would require an opinion on generally accepted accounting principles or commercial practices;
  • when a request is for a determination of fact, and the circumstances are such that all of the pertinent facts cannot be established (this could include issues involving the carrying on of a business, the existence of a partnership, a trust or an agency relationship, or the reasonableness of a cost allocation method); or
  • when the request is for the interpretation of a law not administered by the CRA, e.g., a foreign law.

28. When the CRA decides not to issue a ruling, it will inform the taxpayer in writing of the reasons.

Service standards for responding to GST/HST telephone enquiries and written requests

29. The CRA has published service standards for responding to telephone enquiries on technical GST/HST issues and for written requests for GST/HST rulings and interpretations.

30. For telephone technical enquiries, our goal is to respond to your telephone calls within two minutes of your choosing to speak to an agent.

31. Our goal is to respond to written requests for GST/HST rulings and interpretations within 45 business days of CRA receipt of the request and all relevant facts and supporting documentation. This excludes highly technical and precedent- and/or policy-setting rulings and interpretations. By receiving as much information as possible with the initial request, we can provide a more accurate, timely and complete response.

Processing requests for rulings and interpretations

32. Upon receipt of a request for a ruling or interpretation, the CRA will send the taxpayer an acknowledgement letter that identifies the ruling or interpretation file case number and the name and telephone number of a CRA contact person.

33. The CRA will review a request for a ruling or an interpretation as soon as possible after receiving it. However, a ruling or interpretation may be delayed if it requires a review of an issue upon which the CRA has not yet adopted a position, or if the CRA is currently in the process of reconsidering its existing position. A ruling or interpretation may also be delayed if the CRA finds it necessary to obtain further information from the taxpayer because the initial request does not include all relevant information and documentation. If a ruling is required by a certain deadline (e.g., before the closing date of a contract), the request should be submitted with reasonable lead-time.

34. A taxpayer may ask to meet with CRA officials after requesting a ruling or interpretation. The CRA encourages such meetings when the purpose is to provide new information, clarify facts, or correct any misunderstanding of previously provided information.

35. Taxpayers must provide all relevant documentation with their requests for rulings or interpretations. Complete documentation ensures that the CRA can answer the request in a timely manner, and that the ruling addresses the taxpayer's specific situation. Requests for rulings should include the following:

  • the name and address of the person making the request and, if the person has a Business Number (BN), the person’s BN, as well as the person’s licence number (e.g., excise duty or excise tax licence number) where applicable, or if the request is being made by a third party, the name and address of the third party's client and, where applicable, the taxpayer’s BN;
  • where a representative (e.g., an accountant, bookkeeper, or lawyer) is acting on behalf of the person for whom the ruling will be made, the CRA requires a written third party authorization certifying that the representative is authorized to act on behalf of the taxpayer, and outlining the purpose, scope, and period of the authorization. This is also a requirement for persons requesting an interpretation where the interpretation applies to a particular named taxpayer. Appendix B provides more information on third party authorization;
  • if another CRA office  is considering the ruling request, a statement to that effect;
  • a complete description of the facts and of each transaction;
  • a statement as to whether the request involves a matter concerning which the requestor is currently under audit or has filed a notice of objection, or which is before the courts;
  • for each transaction covered by the ruling request:
    • a statement of its purpose,
    • the requestor’s interpretation of the application of the relevant legislative provisions;
    • the requestor’s interpretation of common law or Civil Code of Québec issues relevant to the request (e.g., the existence of a trust or an agency relationship); and
    • description of the specific interpretative concern on which the ruling request is based;
  • a description of significant transactions that took place before, or may take place after, the transactions in respect of which a ruling is being requested, and which may be part of a series of transactions that includes the transactions in respect of which the ruling is requested;
  • copies of any relevant supporting agreements or documents, together with references to, and summaries of the specific provisions of these agreements or documents which pertain to the request;
  • where the request is for a GST/HST ruling and concerns the application of anti‑avoidance rules to a transaction, a submission to establish that the transaction will not result directly or indirectly in a misuse of the GST/HST provisions of the Excise Tax Act or an abuse of the GST/HST provisions of that Act read as a whole. For information on the general anti‑avoidance rule, refer to GST/HST Memorandum 16-4, Anti-avoidance Rules;
  • an analysis, where applicable, of authorities (e.g., Canadian case law citations, published commentaries and references to jurisprudence) known to the taxpayer or their representative which support the taxpayer’s position and those that do not, with comments as to why the authorities in support of the taxpayer’s position should prevail.

Electronic Requests

36. The CRA accepts ruling or interpretation requests and related documents electronically through the Submit documents service in the My Business Account or Represent a Client portals. This service is available to businesses and authorized representatives that have registered to these portals.

Requests by fax

37. The CRA accepts facsimile transmissions of ruling or interpretation requests and related documents. Refer to Appendix A to this memorandum for appropriate facsimile numbers.

38. The CRA will transmit a ruling or interpretation to a taxpayer (or the taxpayer’s authorized representative) by facsimile when the taxpayer authorizes the CRA to do so and provides the CRA with a copy of the signed Standard Authorization for Facsimile Transmissions included in Appendix C to this memorandum. It should be noted that while the CRA will exercise due care in transmitting correspondence by facsimile, there is an inherent element of risk of loss of confidentiality in this means of transmission, which is accepted by the taxpayer.

Rulings and audit

39. When the CRA undertakes an audit of a person who has received a ruling, the transactions upon which the CRA based its ruling are subject to review. The review may determine whether all material facts were accurately stated in the ruling request, and whether the transaction or series of transactions was carried out as described.

40. In some circumstances the CRA may rule on an issue that is under audit. In such a case, the rulings officer will communicate with the CRA auditor to discuss the request.

Reconsideration of a ruling or interpretation

41. Although there is no formal appeal process for persons who disagree with a ruling or interpretation, the CRA will reconsider a ruling or interpretation if requested to do so.

42. A taxpayer who does not agree with a ruling or interpretation may submit a written request for reconsideration to the manager of the office that issued the ruling or interpretation.  The address of this office will appear in the ruling or interpretation letter. The request should clearly identify the taxpayer’s name, address, telephone number, BN, licence number (where applicable), ruling or interpretation case number, and the reasons for the concerns. Third party authorization is required if a particular person is acting on the taxpayer’s behalf.

43. Upon receipt of a written request for reconsideration, the CRA will send the taxpayer an acknowledgement letter that identifies the ruling or interpretation file case number and the name and telephone number of a CRA contact person, and subsequently contact the taxpayer to discuss the nature of the concerns. The CRA will also meet with the taxpayer if requested to do so.

44. Where a taxpayer’s request for reconsideration cannot be resolved with the office which issued the ruling or interpretation, that office will forward the request for review at a more senior level.

45. The CRA will confirm the outcome of the reconsideration process in writing to the taxpayer.

Appendix A – Where to write or call for a ruling or interpretation

Below are instructions on where to write or call if you wish to request a ruling or interpretation or make a technical enquiry.

GST/HST and First Nations taxes

For a ruling or interpretation or a technical enquiry on the GST/HST or one of the First Nations taxes, write to one of the GST/HST rulings centres listed below, or call at 1-800-959-8287.

Please note that since Revenu Québec, rather than the CRA, administers the GST/HST in Quebec, a person with a business located in that province should contact Revenu Québec at 1-800-567-4692 for rulings and interpretations and technical enquiries on the GST/HST.

Exception: For selected listed financial institutions (SLFIs) located in Quebec or listed financial institutions that would be SLFIs for GST/HST purposes if Quebec were a participating province, the CRA has been administering the GST/HST since January 1, 2013. In addition, and effective that date, the CRA administers the QST on behalf of Revenu Québec for these financial institutions. General information on changes in the administration of the GST/HST and the QST is available at canada.ca/gst-hst-financial-institutions. For technical enquiries on the GST/HST and the QST that relate to SLFIs, please call GST/HST Rulings at 1-855-666-5166. For a ruling or interpretation on the GST/HST- and/or QST-related to SLFIs, please write to one of the GST/HST rulings centres listed below.

Atlantic Region

GST/HST Rulings
P.O. Box 638, Station Central
Halifax NS  B3J 2T5
Fax: 902-450-8562

Ontario Region

GST/HST Rulings
55 Bay Street North
Hamilton ON  L8R 3P7
Fax: 905-527-0790

Prairie Region

GST/HST Rulings
325 Broadway
Winnipeg MB  R3C 4T4
Fax: 204-984-0606

Pacific Region

GST/HST Rulings
468 TA-03
9755 King George Boulevard
Surrey BC V3T 5E1 
Fax: 604-658-8666

Excise duty

For a ruling, interpretation or technical enquiry on excise duty, contact one of the regional excise duty offices listed below.

Atlantic Region

Excise Duty Manager
P.O. Box 638
Halifax NS  B3J 2T5
Telephone: 1-888-327-7999
Fax: 902-450-8559

Quebec Region

Excise Duty Manager
Section 492
P.O. Box 32
305 René-Lévesque Blvd. West
Montréal QC  H2Z 1A6
Telephone: 1-888-651-7834
Fax: 514-283-6154

Ontario Region

Excise Duty – General Information
5800 Hurontario Street
Mississauga ON  L5R 4B4
Telephone: 1-866-667-9851
Fax: 905-615-2814

Prairie Region

Excise Duty Manager
Room 232
220 4th Avenue South East
Calgary AB  T2G 0L1
Telephone: 587-475-3588
Fax: 403-292-4075

Pacific Region

Excise Duty Manager
c/o 468 Terminal Avenue, 3rd Floor
9755 King George Boulevard
Surrey BC  V3T 5E1 
Telephone: 778-374-8249
Fax: 604-658-8660

Air travellers security charge, excise taxes, tax on insurance premiums and softwood lumber products export charge

For a ruling or interpretation or a technical enquiry on the air travellers security charge (ATSC), excise taxes, the tax on insurance premiums or the softwood lumber products export charge, contact:

Excise Duties and Taxes Division
Excise and GST/HST Rulings Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency
Place de Ville, Tower A
320 Queen Street, 11th floor
Ottawa ON  K1A 0L5
Telephone: 1-866-330-3304
Fax: 613-954-2226

Appendix B – Third party authorization letter

Please note the following:

  • A third party authorization letter (see sample below) is required where a third party is acting for a person to whom a ruling or interpretation will apply. The authorization should be specific to the request for a ruling or interpretation.
  • Please provide the name, address, and telephone number of the third party. If the third party is an individual in a firm, provide both the name of the individual and that of the firm.
  • This letter should be addressed to the office from which you are requesting a ruling or interpretation.
  • Please specify the tax or duty to which the authorization applies, e.g. the GST/HST, excise duty or excise tax.
  • If the authorization applies for a specific period of time, e.g. a GST/HST reporting period(s) or fiscal year or a series of excise duty fiscal months, please indicate this. If it applies on an ongoing basis please mention that fact.
  • Please inform the CRA if you wish to revoke a third party authorization. The request for revocation should contain all of the information provided with the initial request for authorization.

Example of a third party authorization letter


[Date]

Dear Sir/Madam:

For purposes of my request for a ruling or interpretation, I hereby authorize officials of the Canada Revenue Agency to provide the following person with confidential information about my operations:

[Name of third party, including trading name if applicable
Address of third party and telephone number]

This authorization applies to operations relating to my [type of] account and applies from [specify date including year] to [specify date including year].

[Signature of requestor]

[Full name of requestor
Address of requestor
Business Number]

Appendix C – Standard authorization for facsimile transmissions

An authorization for facsimile transmissions must be included with all rulings or interpretations requests in respect of which the taxpayer wishes the CRA to fax correspondence.

Example of an authorization for fax transmissions


RULINGS AND INTERPRETATIONS –
STANDARD AUTHORIZATION FOR FACSIMILE TRANSMISSIONS

I hereby authorize the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to fax all correspondence concerning the enclosed ruling(s) or interpretation(s) request(s). All correspondence is to be transmitted to the following fax number: ________________________.

Waiver

I am aware that the CRA does not provide assurance with respect to the protection, confidentiality or security of facsimile transmissions. I accept the risks of possible loss of confidentiality involved due to the unsecured nature of facsimile transmissions of information. I agree not to hold the CRA or its employees liable for any damage or loss, however caused, arising out of the facsimile transmission of any correspondence related to my ruling or interpretation request.

Identification – Please print

Contact person:
Telephone number:

Name of taxpayer or authorized third party:
Business number (BN):
Telephone number:

Signature

Signature of taxpayer or authorized third party:
Date:

Further information

For GST/HST technical publications go to Technical information – GST/HST.

To make a GST/HST enquiry by telephone:

  • for GST/HST general enquiries, call Business Enquiries at 1-800-959-5525;
  • for GST/HST technical enquiries, call GST/HST Rulings at 1-800-959-8287.

If you are located in Quebec, call Revenu Québec at 1-800-567-4692 or visit their website at revenuquebec.ca.

If you are a selected listed financial institution (whether or not you are located in Quebec) and require information on the GST/HST or the QST, go to GST/HST and QST - Financial institutions, including selected listed financial institutions or

  • for general GST/HST or QST enquiries, call Business Enquiries at 1-800-959-5525;
  • for technical GST/HST or QST enquiries, call GST/HST Rulings SLFI at 1-855-666-5166.
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