GST/HST on imports and exports
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GST/HST rules for imports, exports, and drop-shipments
GST/HST relief programs
Non-residents and GST/HST registration
GST/HST rules for imports, exports, and drop-shipments
If you import or export goods or services, you may have to collect or pay the GST/HST. How this tax is applied depends on the specific goods or service, whether you are a resident or non-resident of Canada, the province you reside in, and whether you are registered for the GST/HST.
For more information, select the situation that applies to you:
Specific GST/HST rules apply to imports of goods, services, and intangible personal property. There are additional import rules for certain financial institutions as discussed in Technical Information Bulletin B-095, The Self-assessment Provisions of Section 218.01 and Subsection 218.1(1.2) for Financial Institutions (Import Rules).
For more information about which goods, services, or intangible personal property are subject to the GST/HST, as well as the rates, see How place of supply affects GST/HST rates.
For more information, select the situation that applies to you:
GST/HST and imported goods
In this section:
- Overview of imported goods
- Non-taxable imports
- Importing goods into a participating province
- Recovering the provincial part of the HST
- Self-assessing the provincial part of the HST
Overview of imported goods
Goods you import into Canada are subject to the GST or the federal part of the HST, except for items specified as non-taxable importations. The GST or the federal part of the HST is calculated on the Canadian dollar value of the goods, including duty and excise tax. It is collected at the time of importation at the same time as the duty and excise tax. For information on the provincial part of the HST on goods you import, see Importing goods into a participating province.
The owner or importer of record is responsible for paying the GST/HST on imported goods. If you are registered for the GST/HST and you are the importer (the person who caused the goods to be imported into Canada), you can claim an input tax credit (ITC) for the tax you paid on the imported goods, as long as you meet the requirement for claiming ITCs. For more information on ITCs, see Input tax credits.
The GST/HST does not apply to items specified as non-taxable importations.
Examples of non-taxable importations
- certain zero-rated goods (goods that are specifically taxed at 0% in Canada, such as prescription drugs)
- medals, trophies and other prizes won outside Canada in competition (but not saleable goods, such as an automobile)
- tourist literature imported by governments or specified organizations for public distribution free of charge
- goods that were imported by a charity or public institution and that were donated to the charity or institution
- goods imported for the sole purpose of maintenance, overhaul, or repairs, but only if the ownership or person using these goods does not change while in Canada and the goods are exported as soon as the services are completed
- goods that are imported by manufacturing service companies, processed for non-residents and then exported without being used in Canada:
- any parts to be used in or attached to the goods, as well as materials directly used in the processing of those goods, are also non-taxable
- the manufacturing service company must apply in writing for an import certificate to be able to import goods on a non-taxable basis
- warranty replacement property and replacement parts supplied by a non-resident at no charge except for shipping and handling
- goods valued at $20 or less sent to a person by mail or courier at an address in Canada, except for the following prescribed goods:
- excisable goods (such as beer, tobacco, and wine)
- books, newspapers, magazines, periodicals and similar publications if the vendor was required to register for the GST/HST but did not do so
- goods bought from a retailer in Canada and mailed or transported from outside Canada directly to the purchaser
Importing goods into a participating province
When a resident of a participating province imports a non-commercial good, in addition to the federal part of the HST, in most cases, the provincial part of the HST applies at the border, regardless of the point of entry into Canada or customs clearance.
Exceptions are motor vehicles that must be registered in a participating province and mobile homes or floating homes that an individual used or occupied in Canada.
Recovering the provincial part of the HST
You may be eligible to recover the provincial part of the HST on goods you imported for use in a non-participating province or a participating province with a lower HST rate. For more information, see Reason code 12 – Goods imported at a place in a non-participating province, or imported at a place in a participating province with a lower HST rate (section 261.2) and Guide RC4033, General Application for GST/HST Rebates. Legislative references are to the Excise Tax Act, unless otherwise stated.
Although the provincial part of the HST is not payable when you import commercial goods that are destined for a participating province, the goods may be subject to self-assessment of the provincial part of the HST. Generally, the value on which tax is required to be self-assessed is the lesser of the amount paid for the good and the fair-market value of the property. For more information regarding self-assessment requirements and exceptions, see GST/HST Notice 266, Draft GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin, Harmonized Sales Tax – Self-assessment of the provincial part of the HST in respect of property and services brought into a participating province.
Self-assessing the provincial part of the HST
If you are registered for the GST/HST, the provincial part of the HST is payable by you when a commercial good is imported into a participating province. Enter this amount on line 405 of your GST/HST return. You may be eligible to claim an ITC for the tax you self-assess on the goods, depending on the percentage of use in your commercial activities. For more information on ITCs, see Input tax credits.
If you are not registered for the GST/HST and have to self-assess the provincial part of the HST, use Form GST489, Return for Self-assessment of the Provincial Part of Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
GST/HST and imported services and intangible personal property
If you buy services (such as architectural services for a building in Canada) or intangible personal property (IPP) (such as the right to use a patent in Canada) from an unregistered non-resident person outside Canada, you have to self-assess the GST or the federal part of the HST if you bought them for use less than 90% in your commercial activities (100% in the case of a financial institution).
If you are a resident of a participating province and buy services or IPP in the above circumstances, you may also have to self-assess the provincial part of the HST if you bought them for use of at least 10% in the participating provinces. Tax is computed at the rate for the provincial part of the HST for each particular participating province on the amount paid, to the extent it is for use in that province.
If you do not use the imported services or IPP at least 90% in your commercial activities, you have to report the GST or the federal part of the HST on line 405 of your GST/HST return and remit the tax to the CRA.
You should calculate the tax based on the amount you were charged for the service or IPP in Canadian dollars. The tax is due in the same reporting period that the service or IPP was paid for or became payable.
If you are not registered for the GST/HST, you still have to pay tax on imported services or IPP. To remit the tax, use Form GST59, GST/HST Return for Imported Taxable Supplies, Qualifying Consideration, and Internal and External Changes. The tax is due by the end of the month after the calendar month that the service or IPP was paid for or became payable.
Goods and services that are normally subject to the GST/HST may not be subject to the GST/HST when exported from Canada, depending on the situation. In this case, they are referred to as “zero-rated” (taxed at 0%).
In this section:
If goods are supplied in Canada and then exported, there are generally three ways they can be zero-rated (taxed at 0%):
1. If the purchaser takes delivery of the goods in Canada and all of the following conditions are met:
- the goods are not excisable goods, such as beer and tobacco
- the purchaser is not a consumer (a consumer is usually an individual who is buying the goods for their personal use)
- after you deliver the goods, the purchaser exports them as soon as is reasonable
- the purchaser does not buy the goods to consume, use, or supply in Canada before exporting them
- after buying the goods in Canada and before exporting them, the purchaser does not further process, transform, or alter the goods, unless necessary for transport
- in case of an audit, you keep satisfactory evidence that the purchaser exported the goods
- if the property being exported is electricity, crude oil, natural gas, or any good that can be transported by means of a wire, pipeline, or other conduit, and the purchaser is not registered for the GST/HST
2. If the goods are not a continuous transmission commodity that is being transported by means of a wire, pipeline, or other conduit, and the supplier:
- ships the goods to a destination outside Canada that is specified in the contract for carriage of the goods
- transfers possession of the goods to a common carrier or consignee that:
- will ship the property to a destination outside Canada, and
- is retained by the supplier on the recipient’s behalf or by the recipient’s employer
- sends the goods by mail or courier to an address outside Canada
3. A purchaser who is registered for the GST/HST can apply for authorization to issue an export certificate to the supplier to make the goods zero-rated. For more information, see GST/HST Memorandum 4-5-2, Exports - Tangible Personal Property.
If the goods do not meet the conditions for zero-rating, the supplier has to charge and the purchaser has to pay the GST/HST on taxable supplies.
A non-resident purchaser (other than a consumer) can apply for a rebate to recover the tax paid on qualifying goods (other than excisable goods, wine, and gasoline) exported from Canada. To qualify for this rebate, the non-resident purchaser has to export the goods from Canada within 60 days of delivery, and meet other conditions. For more information, see Guide RC4033, General Application for GST/HST Rebates, and Form GST189, General Application for Rebate of GST/HST.
Notice to reader
The call centre measures apply to supplies made after March 22, 2016. The measures also apply to supplies made on or before March 22, 2016 where a supplier did not charge, collect, or remit an amount as GST/HST on the supply. For more information, see Exported Call Centre Services in the 2016 Federal Budget - Tax Measures: Supplementary Information.
A supplier does not charge the GST/HST on services they perform totally outside Canada or on services that relate to real property situated outside Canada.
If the supplier or purchaser temporarily imports goods to perform a service on them (other than transportation services), the goods are zero-rated. The goods must be brought into Canada only to have the service performed on them, and must be exported as soon as possible. Any parts supplied along with these services are also zero-rated.
Zero-rated services for non-resident persons
Certain services provided to a non-resident person, but not to an individual while the individual is in Canada, that are performed all or partly in Canada may be zero-rated, such as:
- certain advisory, professional, or consulting services
- advisory, consulting, or research services to help a non-resident person establish a residence or business in Canada
- custodial or nominee services for a non-resident person's securities or precious metals
- services of acting as an agent for a non-resident person or services of arranging for, procuring, or soliciting orders for supplies by or to the person when the service relates to a zero-rated property or service, or if the supply to or by the non-resident person is made outside Canada
- services made in Canada and provided to a non-resident person by electronic means (for more information, see GST/HST Technical Bulletin B-090, GST/HST and Electronic Commerce)
- advertising services provided to a non-resident person who is unregistered (not registered for the GST/HST)
- services and parts (for goods or real property) acquired to meet a warranty obligation for an unregistered non-resident person
- training services provided to an unregistered non-resident person (except for individuals) to teach non-resident individuals or to give examinations for courses leading to certificates, diplomas, licences and similar documents; give examinations for classes or licence ratings that attest to the individuals' competence; or to give an exam to practise or perform a trade or vocation
- services provided to an unregistered non-resident person for destroying or discarding goods or for dismantling goods for the purpose of exporting them
- services provided to an unregistered non-resident person for testing or inspecting goods that are either acquired in Canada or brought into Canada for the testing or inspection services; however, this applies only if the goods are to be destroyed or discarded during the service or when it is completed
If you are a GST/HST registrant, you can also claim input tax credits to recover the GST/HST you paid or owe on purchases and expenses related to these zero-rated goods and services. For more information, see Input tax credits.
Exports of intangible personal property
Exports of intangible personal property
Intangible personal property (IPP) is generally a right rather than a physical object. It includes such things as contractual rights, options, intellectual property, rights in relation to goods that are not in possession, and other rights that are enforceable by the courts.
If you are a GST/HST registrant, you have to charge, and the purchaser has to pay, GST/HST on taxable supplies of IPP unless they are zero-rated or made outside Canada.
A supply of IPP that may not be used in Canada is considered to be made outside Canada, and is therefore not subject to the GST/HST.
In addition, a supply of intellectual property, such as a patent or trademark, and the right to use the intellectual property is zero-rated if the supply is made to an unregistered non-resident.
Most supplies of IPP (other than intellectual property) made to persons who are unregistered non-residents are zero-rated except for the following:
- a supply made to an individual unless the individual is outside Canada when the supply is made
- a supply of IPP that relates to real property in Canada or to tangible personal property that is ordinarily in Canada
- a supply of IPP that relates to a supply of a service that is made in Canada and is not zero-rated as an export, a transportation service, or a financial service
- a supply of IPP that can be used only in Canada
- a supply of making a telecommunications facility that is IPP available for use in providing a telecommunication service
For supplies of IPP to qualify for zero-rating, suppliers must verify and maintain satisfactory evidence of the GST/HST registration status and the residency of their customers at the time the supply is made. In addition, for supplies of IPP other than intellectual property, suppliers must verify and maintain satisfactory evidence of the physical location of their customers at the time the supply is made.
In this section:
- Overview of drop-shipment rules
- Drop shipments to registrants
- Drop shipments to unregistered persons
Overview of drop-shipment rules
The drop-shipment rules allow an unregistered non-resident person to acquire in Canada goods (or services in respect of the goods) on a tax-free basis, provided the goods are ultimately exported or are retained in Canada exclusively for consumption, use, or supply in the course of commercial activities of a GST/HST registrant.
A drop-shipment generally happens when a non-resident who is not registered for the GST/HST acquires goods from a registrant in Canada and contracts the registrant to deliver the goods to another particular person in Canada. The unregistered non-resident is still considered to be the person making the supply to the other particular person.
A drop-shipment also occurs when an unregistered non-resident contracts a registrant in Canada to perform certain commercial services on goods, and the registrant causes the goods to be delivered to another person (either a resident of Canada or a non-resident person) for export.
An unregistered non-resident can take advantage of the drop-shipment rules when a GST/HST registrant sells goods to them or performed commercial services (manufacturing, processing, inspecting, testing, repair, maintenance, or storage) on goods owned by the unregistered non-resident and then delivers them to a third party. The third party can be a customer of the non-resident or another resident who takes possession of the goods in order to perform additional work on them.
Drop-shipments to registrants
When a GST/HST registrant transfers physical possession of a supplier’s goods to a third party (the consignee) who is also a GST/HST registrant, the consignee must issue a drop-shipment certificate to the registrant in order for tax not to apply to the supply of goods or commercial services that the GST/HST registrant makes to the supplier.
Drop-shipment certificates ensure that consignees are aware of their potential GST/HST liability when another registrant transfers physical possession of a supplier’s goods to them. By issuing the certificate, the consignees acknowledge they are responsible for the GST/HST payable if they do not acquire the goods for consumption, use, or supply exclusively in the course of commercial activities, or if an unregistered person ultimately uses the goods in Canada. For more information, see Drop-shipments to non-registrants.
The CRA accepts blanket drop-shipment certificates. These certificates cover more than one transfer of physical possession of goods from one registrant to another (the consignee).
You are an unregistered non-resident who buys radios from a registered supplier. You instruct the supplier to have the radios delivered to a GST/HST-registered inspector. The inspector gives the supplier a drop-shipment certificate. The supplier invoices you for the radios, but does not charge GST/HST. You instruct the inspector to deliver the radios to a registered customer. The customer gives the inspector a drop-shipment certificate. The inspector invoices you for the inspection service but does not charge GST/HST. You invoice the customer, and as an unregistered non-resident, you do not charge GST/HST. The customer reports the GST/HST on their return because they are a registrant.
A valid drop-shipment certificate must contain all of the following information:
- the consignee's name and registration number
- a statement saying that:
- the consignee has taken or will take physical possession of the goods
- the goods are acquired for the purpose of performing commercial services on them or they are for the recipient's consumption, use, or supply
- the consignee assumes liability to pay or remit any GST/HST that may become payable
A registrant may become liable to account for tax on an unregistered non-resident's goods upon taking physical possession of those goods. The liability does not come from issuing a drop-shipment certificate. It can only be avoided by not taking physical possession of the goods.
To learn more about the drop-shipment rules, see the following:
Transfer of goods to a carrier or warehouse
1. A GST/HST registrant transfers your goods to a carrier or warehouse and tells the carrier or warehouse operator to transfer the goods to a third party. The registrant must obtain a drop-shipment certificate from the third party in order for tax not to apply to the supply of goods and commercial services from the registrant to you.
2. A GST/HST registrant transfers your goods to a warehouse for storage until a third party purchaser is found. The registrant is not required to charge tax on the sale of the goods to you. However, the registrant remains potentially liable for tax on the fair market value of the goods unless, at the time of the transfer of the goods to the third party, the registrant obtains a drop-shipment certificate from the third party.
3. A GST/HST registrant transfers your goods to a warehouse and tells the warehouse operator to release the goods to you. The registrant is regarded as transferring physical possession to you in Canada and the transaction is subject to GST/HST. If you plan to sell the goods to another registrant, and the goods will not leave Canada, you can tell the warehouse to issue a drop-shipment certificate to the registrant. This allows you to not pay tax to the first registrant.
When the certificate is issued, the warehouse operator becomes potentially liable for tax on the fair market value of the goods. However, the operator can avoid this liability by getting a drop-shipment certificate from the third party when the third party takes physical possession of the goods.
If a warehouse operator acts as the importer of record for goods you transfer to the warehouse and claims an input tax credit for the importation of the goods, the CRA considers the warehouse operator to have taken physical possession of the goods.
The warehouse operator has to pay GST/HST to the CRA when physical possession of the goods is transferred to another person on your behalf, unless the warehouse operator obtains a drop-shipment certificate from the other person to whom they transfers physical possession of the goods.
Goods kept by registered suppliers
A GST/HST registrant sells goods to you and transfers ownership but does not transfer physical possession of the goods to you. The registrant does not charge GST/HST on the sale if the reason they keep physical possession of the goods is to do either of the following:
- transfer physical possession of the goods to you or a subsequent owner, or to another person designated by you or a subsequent owner
- perform a commercial service on the goods for you or a subsequent owner
The registrant assumes any potential GST/HST liability for the goods when they transfer physical possession of the goods to another person. The registrant is relieved of this liability if they receive a drop-shipment certificate from the third party when physical possession is transferred.
Goods that are later exported
A GST/HST registrant does not charge the tax on the sale of goods or supply of commercial services to an unregistered non-resident if the registrant does any of the following:
- transfers physical possession of the goods to a person in Canada who will export the goods within a reasonable amount of time and the conditions for zero-rated exports are met
- transfers physical possession of the goods to a carrier for export and delivery to a person outside Canada
- transfers physical possession of the goods to a person at a place outside Canada
For more information, go to Exported goods in Guide RC4027, Doing Business in Canada - GST/HST Information for Non-Residents.
Conditional sales contracts and sale-leaseback arrangements
Normally, the GST/HST applies when a registrant sells goods in Canada to an unregistered non-resident and then leases back the goods, which remain in Canada.
However, under the drop-shipment rules, no GST/HST is charged. These rules also apply if the unregistered non-resident purchases the goods to lease them to another registrant in Canada. In this situation, the second registrant must issue a drop-shipment certificate to the first registrant. The second registrant has to self-assess tax only if they acquire the goods for use in non-commercial activities.
When the drop-shipment rules do not apply
The drop-shipment rules do not apply to common carriers that take possession of goods for the sole purpose of shipping the goods. In all cases, fees for shipping goods are subject to the GST/HST.
The CRA considers the transfer of the goods to the carrier for transportation and delivery to another person to be a transfer of physical possession of the goods to the person to whom the goods are to be delivered. That person can choose to follow the drop-shipment rules.
Drop shipments to unregistered persons
If you instruct a GST/HST registrant to deliver goods in Canada to an unregistered consignee, such as a consumer, the GST/HST is payable when the registrant delivers or transfers the goods to the recipient. In this situation, you would calculate the GST/HST as follows:
- based on the fair market value of the goods if the registrant transfers physical possession of the goods in Canada to you or to a third person
- zero, if you provide the goods to a customer free of charge and the registrant transfers physical possession of the goods to the customer in Canada on your behalf
These rules also apply if a registered consignee does not issue a drop-shipment certificate to the GST/HST registrant.
GST/HST relief programs
You may be eligible for GST/HST relief on certain imports and domestic purchases under the Export Distribution Centre Program and the Exporters of Processing Services Program.
Export Distribution Centre Program
Export Distribution Centre Program
The Export Distribution Centre Program (EDCP) permits eligible export-oriented businesses that do not manufacture or produce goods and that add limited value to goods during their processing or distribution activities to use an EDCP certificate to acquire or import the following items without having to pay the GST/HST:
- most inventory
- property to be added to other goods in the course of processing
- customers' goods on which processing services are provided
For more information, see GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin B-088, Export Distribution Centre Program.
You can participate in the EDCP if all of the following apply:
- You are a GST/HST registrant
- You are engaged exclusively (90% or more) in commercial activities
- It can reasonably be expected that during the fiscal year when the authorization is in effect, you will meet all of the following criteria:
- Your export revenue percentage will be 90% or more
- You will not engage in substantial alteration of property
- The value you add to your customers' goods from providing non-basic services will be 10% or less, or the total value you add to your customers' goods will be 20% or less
How to apply for authorization
If you are eligible, you can apply for EDCP authorization by using Form GST528, Authorization To Use an Export Distribution Centre Certificate.
The EDCP authorization is valid for three years, unless it is revoked. It can be renewed by sending Form GST528 at least three months before the expiry date of your existing authorization.
Exporters of Processing Services Program
Exporters of Processing Services Program
The Exporters of Processing Services Program (EOPS) provides GST/HST relief to eligible businesses that will export certain goods they imported or acquired in Canada.
This relief is limited to goods that were imported only to have services performed on them. These services must be supplied by a GST/HST registrant to a non-resident person.
This program is intended to reduce the cash-flow cost for registrants who import goods for these purposes. It reduces the tax payable on their importations and provides refunds to recover that tax.
The registrant must import the goods for the purpose of supplying a service in Canada of processing, storage, or distribution of the goods. In addition, the goods (or any product of their processing) must be exported without having been consumed or used in Canada, except to the extent reasonably necessary or incidental to the transportation of the goods.
For the EOPS program, “processing” includes adjusting, altering, assembling or disassembling, cleaning, maintaining, repairing or servicing, inspecting or testing, labelling, marking, tagging or ticketing, manufacturing, producing, packing, unpacking or repacking, and packaging or repackaging.
The EOPS program also applies to imported goods that will be transformed into, attached to, or incorporated, combined or assembled with, other goods that are processed in Canada. It also applies to imported materials that are consumed or expended directly in the processing of other goods that will be exported without having been consumed or used in Canada.
You can participate in the EOPS program if all of the following apply:
- the processor is a GST/HST registrant that has been authorized to use the EOPS program and that applied for the program before importing the goods
- the GST/HST registrant is not closely related to the non-resident owner of the imported goods or to the non-resident recipient of the importer's services (if that is a different person)
- the GST/HST registrant does not become the owner or co-owner of the imported goods or the exported processed products while they are in Canada:
- however, the importer may supply property, such as components or parts, that comes from their own inventory and that is added to the imported goods in the course of their processing
- while the imported goods or processed products are in Canada, they are not the property of a resident
- the GST/HST registrant does not transfer physical possession of the imported goods or the processed products to another person in Canada (for example, the goods are not drop-shipped to another service provider in Canada)
- an exception is when the importer transfers possession of the imported goods or processed products for their storage, transportation to or from a place of storage, or transportation in the course of being exported
- the exportation of the imported goods or processed products occurs within four years of the day the goods are accounted for under section 32 of the Customs Act
- the GST/HST registrant provides any security that may be required as a condition of obtaining an import certificate
How to apply for GST/HST relief through EOPS
There are two different EOPS application processes, depending on whether the GST/HST registrant is also seeking duty relief on the goods they have imported.
Applying only for GST/HST relief through EOPS
To apply only for GST/HST relief through EOPS, send a letter making this request to your nearest tax services office. The letter should contain evidence showing that the person will import goods or materials to provide processing services and will then export the resulting products, and/or that they have done so in the past.
Applying for both GST/HST relief through EOPS and duty relief
To apply for both GST/HST relief through EOPS and relief on duties, fill out Form K90, Duties Relief Application and send it to your local Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) office.
The CBSA will review your operations and consult with your CRA tax services office to determine if you are eligible for a GST/HST import certificate. If both offices approve your application, you will be given a duties relief certificate allowing the GST/HST relief.
The EOPS authorization for GST/HST relief is valid for three years.
Non-residents and GST/HST registration
If you are a non-resident doing business in Canada, you may need to register for the GST/HST. This means that:
- you may need to charge, collect, and remit the GST/HST on your taxable supplies of property and services you make in Canada
- you may need to file GST/HST returns on a regular basis
- you may be able to claim input tax credits to recover the GST/HST paid or payable on your purchases and operating expenses
For more information, see Find out if you have to register for a GST/HST account and Guide RC4027, Doing Business in Canada – GST/HST Information for Non-Residents.
The CBSA offers information on importing and exporting for personal use and for businesses:
- personal use: for information on importing goods for personal use, such as motor vehicles or boats, and using mail or courier for importing, see Importing goods for personal use
- business: for step-by-step guides on the commercial importing or exporting process, see Importing commercial goods into Canada and Guide to exporting commercial goods from Canada
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