GST/HST information for suppliers of publications

Notice to reader

The information on this page replaces the information in Guide RC4103, GST/HST Information for Suppliers of Publications, which has been discontinued.


Find out about the GST/HST and suppliers of publications

Generally, if you are registered for the GST/HST (or if you have to register), you have to charge and collect the GST/HST on all taxable supplies of goods that you make in Canada (other than supplies that are zero-rated). A supply of a good is considered to be made in Canada if it is delivered or made available to the customer in Canada.

This means that you do not usually have to charge and collect the GST/HST on supplies of goods made outside Canada (that is, delivered or made available to the customer outside Canada). However, there are special rules for charging and collecting the GST/HST that may apply to suppliers of prescribed publications that are sent to a recipient in Canada by mail or courier.

Determine what is a prescribed publication for GST/HST purposes

Prescribed publications include the following:

  • books, newspapers, periodicals, magazines, and any similar printed publications (other than those described in Section 1 of Schedule VII to the Excise Tax Act)
  • audio recordings that relate to such publications and accompany those publications when submitted to Canada Post or a customs officer

Determine what is considered soliciting orders of prescribed publications

Activities considered to be soliciting orders

Activities considered to be soliciting orders

Generally, we consider you to be soliciting orders in Canada if you are seeking any orders for prescribed publications to be sent by mail or courier to the recipient at an address in Canada. As a guideline, we consider you to solicit orders in Canada or to offer prescribed publications for sale in Canada in the following situations, even if the activities are performed in Canada through an employee or agent:

  • You advertise the sale of your prescribed publications using Canadian print or broadcast media or websites that are directed at the Canadian market.
  • You advertise in non-Canadian print or broadcast media or websites, but direct the advertisement at the Canadian market (for example, you quote the sale price in Canadian dollars or include in the advertisement a special toll-free number, mailing address, or email address for Canadian customers).
  • You include subscription offer notices, such as card inserts, in your publications or in another company's publications that are targeted specifically at the Canadian market (for example, you might include a reference on the subscription offer insert indicating that the offer is directed at the Canadian market such as pre-paid Canadian postage or a specific sale price quoted in Canadian funds).
  • You have flyers or leaflets advertising the publication hand-delivered or mailed to Canadian homes and businesses.
  • You distribute addressed mail, electronically or otherwise, advertising a publication to Canadian homes and businesses.
  • There is a mention of an additional charge in any currency for residents of Canada.
Mailing lists

We may also consider you to be soliciting orders in Canada if you buy mailing lists and conduct a direct mail advertising campaign. These mailing lists may include physical or electronic mailing addresses and can be bought from a Canadian or non-resident club, association, or any other organization.

Such lists may consist primarily of non-resident members, but some of the members may be Canadian residents. If you undertake direct mail advertising or a solicitation program based on this type of mailing list and include Canadian residents, we consider this to be solicitation in Canada.

Activities not considered to be soliciting orders

Activities not considered to be soliciting orders

We do not consider you to be soliciting orders for prescribed publications in Canada in either of the following situations:

  • You advertise in non-Canadian broadcast or print media available to Canadian residents, but you do not specifically direct the advertising at the Canadian market.
  • You include, in your publications or in another company's publications destined for the Canadian market, offer notices for prescribed publications, but the offers are not specifically directed at the Canadian market.

If you send a renewal notice to a Canadian resident for a subscription that was not originally received as a result of solicitation, you are not considered to have undertaken any activity to identify a market in Canada or to pursue that market. In these circumstances, you are continuing a business relationship that was previously established through the Canadian resident's own initiative.

If you send a notice quoting a renewal price in Canadian dollars directly to the subscriber, we do not consider this activity to be solicitation. The fact that you are not seeking sales beyond a renewal of an existing subscription shows that you have not developed specific plans or advertising activities designed to make additional supplies of subscriptions in Canada, and you are not soliciting sales or offering publications in Canada.

Find out if you need to register for a GST/HST account

You are considered to be carrying on business in Canada and you have to register for the GST/HST if all of the following apply:

  • in Canada, you solicit orders for or offer to sell prescribed publications, whether through an employee or agent or by means of advertising directed at the Canadian market
  • the prescribed publication will be sent by mail or courier to the recipient at an address in Canada
  • you are not a small supplier

Even if you do not have to register, it may be beneficial to register voluntarily.

For more information, see Register for a GST/HST account.

When to charge the GST/HST

As a GST/HST registrant, when you send a prescribed publication by mail or courier to a recipient at an address in Canada, the transaction is considered to have taken place in Canada, even if you supply the order from a place outside Canada. The publication is subject to the GST/HST when you sell it to your customer, and not when it is imported. As a result, foreign publications sold to Canadian residents are taxed in the same way as Canadian publications.

If you are a registered supplier, you will also have to charge and collect the GST/HST on sales of prescribed publications you sell in the following situations:

  • You send the publications to a recipient in Canada by mail or courier
  • The publications are individually addressed, you send them to Canada by any mode of transportation, and they are destined for the mail stream in Canada
  • You send the publications to Canada by any mode of transportation, and they are forwarded to a labelling or wrapping operation in Canada for later delivery by mail.
Point-of-sale rebate of the provincial part of the HST 

The governments of the participating provinces provide a point-of-sale rebate of the provincial part of the HST for taxable purchases of:

  • a printed book or an update of such a book
  • an audio recording all or substantially all of which is a spoken reading of a printed book
  • a bound or unbound printed version of scripture of any religion

If the item being sold is eligible for the point-of-sale rebate, charge and collect only the federal part of the HST.

For more information on the point-of-sale rebate, see Reason code 16 – Provincial point-of-sale rebate on qualifying items.

Charging the GST/HST on bulk shipments of publications

If you are registered, you have to charge and collect the GST/HST in advance on certain types of bulk shipments of publications that will be sent to Canada. Bulk shipments include publications that:

  • are individually addressed to a recipient at an address in Canada
  • arrive by any mode of transportation
  • are destined for the mail stream in Canada

They can also include publications that are not individually addressed but are destined for a labelling or wrapping operation in Canada, and that will eventually make their way into the Canadian mail stream. If you provide proof of your GST/HST registration, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will not delay the release of these publications to assess and collect the GST/HST.

The CBSA will document the shipments on Form B3-3, Canada Customs Coding Form, and release them for delivery to Canada Post. If there is proof of GST/HST registration, importers should write code 48 in field 35 of this form. If there is no proof of registration, the CBSA will collect the GST/HST from the importer of record at the time of importation.

How GST/HST applies on special cases

Types of publications that are free of GST/HST

Certain publications classified under section 1 of Schedule VII to the Excise Tax Act are free of GST/HST if the publications are not classified under tariff item No. 9804.30.00 and both of the following situations apply:

  • they are imported into Canada
  • there are no customs duties on them under the Customs Tariff

The list of publications are:

  • Personal exemptions for returning residents. There are duty-free and tax-free exemption entitlements for Canadian residents who return from a trip outside the country. (98.04)
  • Former residents' effects. This item allows a former resident of Canada who has lived abroad for at least one year to import personal and household effects free of duties and taxes. (98.05)
  • Estates and bequests. Personal effects that are left as a bequest by a Canadian resident who died abroad can be imported free of duties and taxes. (98.06)
  • Settler's effects. People immigrating into Canada can import their personal effects free of duties and taxes. (98.07)
  • Military arms, stores, and other goods from certain countries may be imported into Canada free of duties and taxes. (98.10 and 98.11)
  • Publications of the United Nations Association and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or any of their specialized agencies, can be imported free of duties and taxes. (98.12)
  • Books borrowed from free foreign lending libraries can be imported for a specified period of time free of duties and taxes, if they are returned within 60 days. (98.12.20)
  • Donations of clothing and books for charitable purposes can be imported free of duties and taxes. (98.15)
  • Gifts sent by people living abroad to friends and relatives in Canada can be imported free of duty and taxes if their value is not more than $60. Gifts do not include advertising matter, tobacco products, or alcoholic beverages. (98.16)
  • Goods for display at a convention or public exhibition. Certain restrictions apply.(98.19)
  • Display or demonstration goods imported temporarily from a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) country. Certain restrictions apply. (9823.60)
  • Commercial samples imported temporarily from Mexico, the United States, or Chile can be imported free of duty for a specified period of time. Certain restrictions apply. (9823.70)
  • Advertising films imported temporarily from a NAFTA country. (9823.80)
Certain goods delivered or made available outside Canada

Some examples of goods on which you do not have to charge the GST/HST when delivered or made available outside Canada are as follows:

  • audio recordings that do not relate to a prescribed publication
  • audio recordings that relate to a prescribed publication but do not accompany that publication when it is sent to Canada
  • videotapes, computer software, microfilm, or microfiche
  • printed matter that is not included in the definition of prescribed publications (for example, catalogues, unbound sheet music, and directories)

When you send these goods to your Canadian customers, do not show proof of GST/HST registration on the package. Do not charge the GST/HST on these goods. The importer will have to pay the GST/HST at the time of importation.

See example 

ABC Video Company sends a videotape to a Canadian customer in a situation where the videotape is considered to be delivered outside Canada. Since a videotape is not a prescribed publication and the videotape is considered to be delivered outside Canada, ABC Video Company does not collect the GST/HST from its Canadian customer and does not show its business number (BN) on the package. The Canadian customer pays the applicable duty and GST/HST at the time the videotape is imported into Canada.

Controlled circulation publications

These are publications that are provided to a pre-determined group of Canadian residents free of charge. If you are a GST/HST registered supplier, and you provide proof of registration with the shipment, there will be no delay at Canadian customs, regardless of the value of the shipment.

However, if you are not registered for the GST/HST, the value of the shipment determines whether the GST/HST is charged. Even though the publications are provided free of charge, a value is required for customs purposes. Where possible, we will use an attached invoice to determine a publication's value. If this value is greater than $20, the shipment is taxable upon importation. If the value is $20 or less, GST/HST is not charged unless you are required to register but have not done so.

Subscription agents

Subscription agents are usually independent businesses that solicit orders for individual publications, or for subscriptions from individuals, libraries, and other institutions. These agents market and process the orders, and then forward them to the individual publishers involved. Publishers are responsible for delivering the publication to the subscriber once an order is received.

As a subscription agent, you will be required to register if you solicit orders for, or offer for sale, prescribed publications to be sent by mail or courier to a recipient in Canada, and you are not a small supplier.

In cases where you are involved in this type of sale between a publisher and a customer, you, as the subscription agent, will be responsible for collecting and remitting the GST/HST. You should provide publishers with your business number and ask that it appear on the invoice or declaration accompanying the shipment at the time of importation.

See example 

SA Company is a registered non-resident subscription agent, and Pub Company is a registered non-resident publisher. A university in Canada contracts SA Company to order books published by Pub Company. SA Company contracts with Pub Company for the price of the books and commission, which are paid on settlement of the contract. The university pays SA Company for the price of the books, the service of contracting the publisher to arrange for payment and shipment of the books, and the amount of GST/HST payable on the books and service. SA Company collects the GST/HST from the university and remits it to the Canada Revenue Agency. The business number for SA Company should appear on any invoice it issues to the university and on any documents, including the customs postal declaration accompanying the shipment.

Publications supplied as part of a membership in a non-resident association

Canadian residents may apply for membership in your non-resident association. Benefits of this membership may include publications that are included in the cost of the membership. In such a case, your association may be considered to be supplying a publication or a subscription to a publication, rather than a membership. If you need help to determine whether your association is supplying a publication or a membership, contact the tax services office for your location (see Non-resident GST/HST Enquiries).

If your association is a GST/HST registrant, and it is considered to be supplying a membership, it may be required to charge the GST/HST on the membership fee, whether or not a publication is a benefit of membership. If this situation applies to your association, contact us for information.

If your association is not carrying on business in Canada, and does not otherwise supply prescribed publications by mail or courier to persons in Canada, it does not have to register for the GST/HST.

Any publication supplied as a benefit of membership is treated on importation as follows:

  • If you provide proof of your GST/HST registration, the publications are not taxable on importation
  • If you are not registered and do not have to register, the publications are taxable at the time of importation if the shipment is valued at more than $20
  • If you are required to register but have not registered, the publications are taxable at the time of importation, regardless of the value of the shipment
Unsolicited books sent to libraries and universities

If you are not registered for the GST/HST, and you send unsolicited books free of charge to universities, university faculty members, book reviewers, or other educational institutions located in Canada, these books are generally subject to the GST/HST at the time of importation.

A value for a publication will still be required for customs purposes. Where possible, we will use an attached invoice to determine the value. If the value of the shipment is $20 or less, and you are not required to register for the GST/HST, no tax will be charged. Otherwise, the appropriate amount of tax will be assessed and, if the publications are shipped to Canada by mail, Canada Post will collect the appropriate postal handling fee.

However, if you are registered for the GST/HST, and you provide proof of registration at the time of importation, the shipment is not subject to the tax. In addition, you are not required to charge or collect the GST/HST on books sent free of charge to Canada by mail.

Samples

Samples of publications sent to people in Canada by a non-resident do not qualify as gifts under tariff item No. 9816.00.00 or the Commercial Samples Remission Order. As a result, the value of the gift or sample publications shipped to Canada is considered to be the price for which they are usually sold to consumers on the retail market.

Note 

Tariff item No. 9816.00.00 applies to certain goods brought in by individuals as gifts for friends. The Commercial Samples Remission Order is designed to grant full remission of customs duties, GST/HST, and other taxes imposed under the Excise Tax Act for any commercial samples imported into Canada temporarily.

If you are not registered for the GST/HST, we will assess the tax, unless the shipment is valued at $20 or less and you are not required to register. If you are required to register but have not registered, the publications are taxable at the time of importation, regardless of the value of the shipment.

If you are registered for the GST/HST, and you provide proof of registration with the publications, GST/HST is not collected at the time of importation. In addition, you are not required to charge or collect the GST/HST on the sample publications if they are provided free of charge. 

Supplies sent from foreign lending libraries

No GST/HST is assessed at the time of importation on books of any value sent by a free lending library abroad to any person in Canada, including libraries or other institutions, when the books are to be returned within 60 days.

A library that sends a book to Canada by mail can avoid having to pay the GST/HST and the postal handling fee by ensuring that there is adequate information enclosed with the book so that we can identify the item as non-taxable. Processing will be expedited if this information is included on the postal declaration form attached to the parcel. If the book is sent by courier, the goods will be classified under tariff heading 98.12.20 (duty-free) and are non-taxable under section 1 of Schedule VII to the Excise Tax Act.

International organization publications

All publications produced by the United Nations Association and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including any of their specialized agencies, are non-taxable when imported into Canada. This treatment applies regardless of the mode of transport used, the value of the publications, or the nature of the import transaction. If the publications arrive by mail, no postal handling fee will apply if no duty or GST/HST is payable on the shipment.

Find out about the customs processing of publications imported by mail or courier

The Canada Border Services Agency can examine all publications arriving by mail before releasing them to Canada Post for delivery. The way publications imported by mail are treated depends on the GST/HST registration status of the non-resident publisher and whether the value of the shipment is $20 or less, or more than $20.

For an overview of importing goods by mail or courier for personal use, see Importing by mail or courier.

How to report the GST/HST

You have to prepare and file GST/HST returns at regular intervals, showing the amount of tax you collected (or charged) and paid (or owed). You can deduct input tax credits (ITCs) from the tax you collected or charged on your taxable supplies.

If the amount of tax you charged to your customers is more than the amount of your ITCs, send the difference to us with your GST/HST return. If the amount of tax you charged to your customers is less than the amount of your ITCs, you can claim a refund on your GST/HST return.

For more information, see Calculate the net tax to complete a GST/HST returnFile a GST/HST return, and Remit (pay) the GST/HST (including instalment payments).

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