Excise and GST/HST News - No. 107

February 2020

Table of Contents

Bill C-97 receives Royal Assent

Bill C-97 received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019, and is now known as Budget Implementation Act, 2019 No. 1, S. C. 2019, c. 29. For more information on Bill C-97 see the federal budget article in Excise and GST/HST News 106.

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act

Bill C-97 amended the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to remove the federal requirement that alcohol moving inter-provincially be sold or consigned to a provincial liquor authority. Provinces and territories still have the authority to control the sale and distribution of alcohol in their jurisdiction. As a result of the amendment, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act only applies to alcohol imported into Canada.

Draft tax legislation

On May 17, 2019, the Department of Finance released for public consultation a set of draft legislative proposals relating to the GST/HST, including proposed changes relating to virtual currencies, drop-shipment rules, freight transportation, and GST/HST holding corporation rules.  Additional information about each measure is set out below.

Virtual currencies

The draft legislative proposals include proposed changes relating to virtual currency. Under the proposed measures, the definition of financial instrument in subsection 123(1) of the Excise Tax Act would be amended by adding new paragraph (f.1) to include a virtual payment instrument.

It is proposed that the definition of virtual payment instrument also be added to subsection 123(1), and provide that the expression would mean property that is a digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange (like money, it is an instrument that is accepted as payment in transactions for property and services and is recognized as a measure of value) and exists only at a digital address of a publicly distributed ledger (for example, blockchain).

The definition of virtual payment instrument would exclude:

Since a virtual payment instrument is limited to property, it would not include anything that is considered to be money for purposes of the GST/HST.

These proposals would treat virtual currency (such as Bitcoin) as a financial instrument for GST/HST purposes, meaning that suppliers would not be required to charge and collect GST/HST on supplies of virtual currency.

These proposed amendments would be deemed to have come into force on May 18, 2019.

Drop-shipment rules

It is proposed that the drop-shipment rules be amended to add new subsection 179(7.1), which provides an interpretative rule that ensures that the drop-shipment rules generally apply to commercial services that involve fungible goods. The new interpretative rule does not, however, apply to commercial services that involve fungible goods that are continuous transmission commodities transferred to a consignee by means of a wire, pipeline or other conduit.

The proposed amendment is deemed to apply in respect of any supply of a service made after May 17, 2019, and in respect of any supply of a service made on or before that day if the supplier did not, on or before that day, charge, collect or remit any amount as or on account of tax under Part IX of the Excise Tax Act in respect of the supply.

Freight transportation

Under the proposed measures, the definition of freight transportation service in subsection 1(1) of Part VII of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act would be amended to include a service of driving an automotive vehicle that is designed or adapted to be used on highways and streets for the purpose of delivering the vehicle to a destination. As a result of this proposal, such driving services would be subject to the GST/HST rules that apply to freight transportation services, including zero-rating rules.

This proposed amendment is deemed to have come into force on May 18, 2019, but also applies in respect of any supply made on or before that day if the supplier did not, before that day, charge, collect or remit any amount as or on account of tax under Part IX of the Excise Tax Act in respect of the supply.

GST/HST holding corporation rules

Additional changes to the GST/HST holding corporation rules in section 186 of the Excise Tax Act are proposed that would modify the legislative proposals released on July 27, 2018 respecting these rules (discussed in Excise and GST/HST News, Issue No. 105) to take into account consultations and deliberations since their release.

These subsequent proposals would further expand subsection 186(1) to apply to holding partnerships and holding trusts. This proposed amendment would apply in respect of any property or service acquired, imported or brought into a participating province after May 17, 2019. In addition, the subsequent proposals would expand the property test for the parent (in paragraph 186(1)(c) as proposed on July 27, 2018) to include property for consumption, use or supply by it exclusively in its commercial activity. This proposed amendment would apply in respect of any property or service acquired, imported or brought into a participating province after July 27, 2018.

Supplies of cannabis

Prior to the legalization of cannabis on October 17, 2018, access to cannabis was limited to individuals with a medical document that authorized the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The legalization of cannabis now allows adults to purchase cannabis for non-medical (recreational) purposes. This article will discuss the application of the GST/HST to supplies of cannabis for medical and non-medical purposes.

Cannabis for medical purposes and non-medical cannabis

A person with a licence from Health Canada to sell cannabis for medical purposes, is authorized to sell cannabis products that:

However, such a licence holder cannot sell a drug containing cannabis.

Non-medical (recreational) cannabis can only be purchased from provincially or territorially authorized retailers and must also be of a class that is referred to in Schedule 4.

Cannabis that is of one of the classes in Schedule 4 can be sold as either cannabis for medical purposes or non-medical cannabis depending on the licence of the seller. The difference between  cannabis for medical purposes and non-medical cannabis is in the way it can be accessed, the public possession limits, and the age of the individual at which cannabis can be accessed and possessed, rather than the product itself.

Supplies of cannabis are not zero-rated

The zero-rating provisions for federally regulated drugs are contained in Part I of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act. The most relevant provision in respect of cannabis is paragraph 2(b) of Part I of Schedule VI which zero-rates a supply of a drug set out on the Prescription Drug List (or a drug that belongs to a class of drugs set out on that list), other than a drug or mixture of drugs that may, under the Food and Drugs Act or the Food and Drug Regulations, be sold to a consumer without a prescription.

Cannabis that has been manufactured and sold in accordance with the Cannabis Regulations is exempt from the application of the Food and Drugs Act and would not be a drug set out on the Prescription Drug List. Additionally, even if such cannabis were a drug included on the Prescription Drug List, it would be excluded from paragraph 2(b) as it could be sold to a consumer without a prescription. The cannabis products that can be sold by a holder of a Health Canada licence for sale for medical purposes can also be sold as non-medical or recreational cannabis by a holder of a Health Canada licence for sale. Further, the CRA does not consider that a medical document, as defined in the Cannabis Regulations, that is signed by an authorized health care provider meets the conditions to be a prescription for GST/HST purposes and as a result, persons who access cannabis for medical purposes do so without the use of a prescription.

There are no other provisions in Part I of Schedule VI that would zero-rate the supplies of cannabis. As a result, supplies of cannabis whether for medical or non-medical purposes would generally be subject to GST/HST.

The Cannabis Regulations also provide the framework for the production and sale of separate products referred to as drugs containing cannabis. These are explained in more detail below.

Edible cannabis

On October 17, 2019, edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals were added to Schedule 4 to the Cannabis Act. The application of the zero-rating provisions for drugs to these new classes of cannabis is the same as discussed above.

Edible cannabis is a substance or a mixture of substances that contains cannabis and that is intended to be consumed in the same manner as food. Section 1 of Part III of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act zero-rates supplies of food or beverages for human consumption unless an exclusion applies. Paragraph 1(b) of Part III of Schedule VI to the Act excludes supplies of cannabis products as defined in section 2 of the Excise Act, 2001 from the zero-rating provision for supplies of food and beverages.

Edible cannabis products are cannabis products as defined in the Excise Act, 2001. As such, supplies of edible cannabis are excluded from being zero-rated by paragraph 1(b) of Part III of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act. This exclusion is not affected by product classifications or package sizes. Edible cannabis would generally be subject to GST/HST.

Drugs containing cannabis

A drug containing cannabis is a substance or a mixture of substances containing cannabis that is not a natural health product and that is represented for the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of a disease, disorder or abnormal physical state, or its symptoms, in human beings, or restoring, correcting or modifying organic functions in human beings.

Unlike cannabis for medical purposes and non-medical cannabis manufactured and sold in accordance with the Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations, drugs containing cannabis are not exempt from the application of the Food and Drugs Act. Drugs containing cannabis are required to be approved as a prescription drug by Health Canada to be legally sold in Canada and will have a Drug Identification Number. A drug containing cannabis is a drug set out on the Prescription Drug List and can only be sold to a consumer with a prescription. Therefore, supplies of drugs containing cannabis are zero-rated pursuant to paragraph 2(b) of Part I of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act.

Registered journalism organizations

Under recent amendments to the Income Tax Act (ITA) in the Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1, the definition of qualified donee in subsection 149.1(1) of the ITA is amended to include a registered journalism organization, effective January 1, 2020.

For GST/HST purposes, a charity is defined to mean a registered charity or registered Canadian amateur athletic association within the meaning assigned to those expressions by subsection 248(1) of the ITA, but does not include a public institution. A public institution is defined to mean a registered charity (within the meaning assigned by subsection 248(1) of the ITA) that is a school authority, a public college, a university, a hospital authority or a local authority determined under paragraph (b) of the definition ‘municipality’ to be a municipality.

A registered journalism organization would be neither a registered charity nor a registered Canadian amateur athletic association within the meaning assigned to those expressions by subsection 248(1) of the ITA. As a result, a registered journalism organization would not be a charity or public institution for GST/HST purposes and would not have any entitlements or obligations as such.

Although a registered journalism organization would not be a charity or public institution, a registered journalism organization that is not a trust may be a non-profit organization for GST/HST purposes. A non-profit organization means a person (other than an individual, estate, trust, charity, public institution, municipality, or government) that meets the following conditions:

It is a question of fact whether, at any particular time, a registered journalism organization would meet the definition of a non-profit organization. In particular, whether a registered journalism organization meets the criterion of operating solely for a purpose other than profit must be determined on an ongoing basis. For more information, see GST/HST Policy Statement P-215, Determination of whether an entity is a Non-Profit Organization for purpose of the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”).

More information on how the GST/HST applies to a non-profit organization, including the potential entitlement to claim a public service bodies’ rebate as a qualifying non-profit organization, is discussed in Guide RC4081, GST/HST Information for Non-Profit Organizations. General information on how to collect, record, calculate, and remit the GST/HST applicable to both for-profit and non-profit organizations is provided in Guide RC4022, General Information for GST/HST Registrants. Additional information on registered journalism organizations can be found on the Canada.ca webpage: Qualified Donee Status.

Definition of “university” in subsection 123(1) of the Excise Tax Act

Subsection 123(1) of the Excise Tax Act defines university to mean a recognized degree-granting institution or an organization that operates a college affiliated with, or a research body of, such an institution.

Under the CRA’s previous policy, educational institutions were required to grant degrees at the bachelor’s level or higher to be a “recognized degree granting institution” within the definition of university under the Excise Tax Act, thereby excluding institutions, such as a college, that grant two-year associate degrees. The only way for an organization that operates a college to be a university for GST/HST purposes was for the college to be affiliated with a degree-granting institution.

As a result of the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision in Alexander College Corp. v. The Queen, 2016 FCA 269, the CRA amended its policy on the requirements educational institutions must meet to be a university under the Excise Tax Act. The new policy allows more educational institutions to qualify as a university and therefore make exempt supplies under Part III of Schedule V.

Under the CRA’s new policy, a “recognized degree-granting institution” will now include a college or similar organization that is authorized by a province under provincial legislation or a governmental body in a foreign entity’s home jurisdiction to grant a degree where degree is defined in the applicable legislation to include an academic achievement at the associate level or higher. Therefore, while the academic level of achievement must still be a degree, the CRA no longer requires the degree to be at the baccalaureate level or higher.

Accordingly, where a college or similar organization meets the requirements to be a recognized degree-granting institution explained below, the college or similar organization will be a university for GST/HST purposes:

Domestic entities

For GST/HST purposes, three types of domestic entities qualify as a university:

Foreign-based entities

For GST/HST purposes, a foreign entity qualifies as a university if:

As a result of the change in the CRA’s policy, GST/HST Policy Statement P-220, Domestic entities that qualify as a “university” in the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) and GST/HST Policy Statement P-214R, Foreign-based entities which qualify as a “university” in the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”) have been cancelled and replaced by GST/HST Memorandum 20-3, Universities.

Fuel charge – How to fill out the return, Form B-400

The CRA published a new webpage to help fuel charge registrants.

This webpage provides line-by-line instructions on how to fill out Form B400, Fuel Charge Return – Registrant and the related schedules.

For more information visit: How to fill out the fuel charge return and schedules for registrants.

New online filing options for form GST189, General Application for Rebate of GST/HST

Form GST189, General Application for Rebate of GST/HST, allows individuals and businesses to claim a rebate of GST/HST for specified conditions. Effective October 21, 2019, you are able to file a rebate claim online using your My Account or My Business Account for certain general rebate reason codes. The service is also available to authorized representatives who have “level 2”, “level 3”, or “legal representative” authorization using Represent A Client.

The general rebate reason codes that are available for online filing in My Account are:

The option to file the GST189 for these reason codes has been added to the main page of your My Account profile under “Related Services – File a GST/HST rebate”.

The online filing options for the GST189 in My Business Account now includes the reason codes available in My Account listed above as well as:

This option is available by selecting “File a Rebate” under the GST/HST program area of your My Business Account profile.

For complete details and information on all eligibility requirements and rebate reason codes for the General Application for Rebate of GST/HST, refer to Guide RC4033, General Application for GST/HST Rebates, or go to GST/HST rebates. To log in or register for the CRA’s digital services, go to My Account, My Business Account or Represent A Client.

GST/HST updates in My Business Account

We recently introduced enhancements to our My Business Account service which impact GST/HST program accounts. These changes allow you to:

We also made some changes to the My Business Account Welcome Page. It now displays the following elements in a newly designed header at the top of the page:

For more information go to My Business Account.

New service to submit GST/HST elections electronically on My Business Account

As part of its ongoing efforts to better serve businesses, the CRA, in October 2019, expanded the number of GST/HST elections that can be submitted electronically via My Business Account.

In addition to the GST/HST elections currently available to file in My Business Account, this new service allows registrants to electronically submit 35 more GST/HST elections.

This new and convenient service is being offered in response to feedback from our GST/HST registrants and their authorized representatives.

What this means for you:

Instead of mailing in GST/HST elections, you can get an election form on CRA forms listed by number webpage, fill it out and upload it directly to the CRA for processing through the “File an election” option in My Business Account.

Once you have successfully uploaded your election form, you will receive a confirmation page with a reference number should you need to contact the CRA. Once the election has been processed, it will be available to view in the “View elections” option in My Business Account.

For more details on how to use this service please see Guide RC542 Changes affecting your GST/HST return.

Prescribed rates of interest

The prescribed annual rate of interest in effect from October 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019, on overdue amounts payable to the Minister is 6%. The prescribed annual rate of interest on amounts owed by the Minister (such as, rebates or refunds) is 2% for corporate taxpayers and 4% for non-corporate taxpayers. These rates are applicable to income tax, excise tax, the softwood lumber products export charge, GST/HST, the air travellers security charge (ATSC), the fuel charge (under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act) and excise duty on wine, spirits, tobacco and cannabis.

The prescribed annual rate of interest respecting excise duty on beer, on overdue amounts payable for the indicated period, is set at 4%. Refund interest rates are not applicable for amounts owed by the Minister (such as, rebates or refunds) for excise duty that is in relation to beer.

Prescribed annual rates of interest for GST/HST, excise tax, softwood lumber products export charge, fuel charge, ATSC, excise duty (wine, spirits, tobacco, cannabis), income tax
 PERIOD January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020 October 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019 July 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019 April 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019
Refund Interest
Corporate Taxpayers
2%   2% 2% 2%
Refund Interest
Non-Corporate Taxpayers
4% 4% 4% 4%
Arrears and Instalment Interest 6%   6% 6% 6%
Prescribed annual rates of interest for excise duty on beer
 PERIOD January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2020 October 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019 July 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019 April 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019
Arrears Interest Excise duty - beer   4%   4% 4% 4%

Prescribed interest rates for previous years are available on Canada.ca at Prescribed interest rates.

What’s new in publications

The following is a list of new or revised excise and GST/HST forms and publications:

Regulations published in the Canada Gazette

GST/HST forms

GST/HST guides

GST/HST info sheets

GST/HST memoranda

Excise forms

Excise duty notices

Excise notices

Fuel charge notices

Fuel charge forms

Air Travellers Security Charge forms

All GST/HST, excise duty, and excise taxes and special levies publications can be found on the Canada.ca website. Go to the Technical information – GST/HST, Excise taxes and other levies and Excise duty webpages.

To receive email notification as soon as a document is published on the CRA website, go to electronic mailing lists and subscribe to the RSS feed for all new CRA publications and forms, or subscribe to any number of mailing lists for different types of publications.

Contact us

More information

Forms and publications

  • All GST/HST technical publications and GST/HST related forms are available on the Canada.ca website. Go to GST/HST related forms and publications.
  • To access all other forms and publications on the CRA website go to Forms and publications.
  • To order forms and publications by telephone, call 1‑800‑959‑5525.

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.

Go to the Contact Information – Excise Duties, Excise Taxes, Fuel Charge and Air Travellers Security Charge webpage for technical enquiries, publications and forms, and regional office contact information.

Account enquiries

For general information and to make enquiries regarding your account (except for softwood lumber products export charge accounts), you can:

  • view answers to common enquiries, or submit an enquiry using the online “Enquiries service” on “My Business Account”;
  • view account information online at E-services for Businesses; or
  • call Business Enquiries at 1‑800‑959‑5525.

For online access to your GST/HST, air travellers security charge, excise tax and duty accounts (such as viewing up-to-date account balances and transactions, transferring payments and more), go to:

For enquiries regarding the status of specific GST/HST domestic rebate claims, call Business Enquiries at 1‑800‑959‑5525.

Help

For technical support using our online services:

  • business accounts, call 1‑800‑959‑5525
  • teletypewriter users, call 1‑800‑665‑0354
  • calls outside of Canada and the United States, call collect at 1‑613‑940‑8497

Please have the screen number (bottom right) and, if applicable, the error number and message received on hand when calling.

The Excise and GST/HST News is published quarterly and highlights recent developments in the administration of the GST/HST, the QST for SLFIs, First Nations goods and services tax (FNGST) and First Nations tax (FNT), air travellers security charge (ATSC) as well as excise taxes and duties. If you would like to receive a link to each new edition of the Excise and GST/HST News as it is published, subscribe to the electronic mailing list.

This publication is provided for information purposes only and does not replace the law, either enacted or proposed. Please note that any commentary in this newsletter regarding proposed measures should not be taken as a statement by the CRA that such measures will in fact be enacted into law in their current form. Comments or suggestions about the newsletter should be sent to the Editor, Excise and GST/HST News, Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch, CRA.

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