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.

On this page

GST/HST and suppliers of publications
Who needs to register for a GST/HST account
When to charge the GST/HST on publications
GST/HST in special cases
GST/HST for imported publications
How to report the GST/HST


GST/HST and suppliers of publications

If you supply publications, the requirements for charging and remitting the GST/HST generally apply to you. In addition to these general rules, there are specific rules for publications, as well as some exceptions, whether or not you are registered for the GST/HST.

Generally, if you are registered for the GST/HST, or if you have to register for it, 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, special rules may apply to suppliers of prescribed publications (see below) that are sent from outside Canada by mail or courier to a recipient in Canada.

For definitions of GST/HST-related terms (including supply and supplier), go to Definitions for GST/HST.

Who needs to register for a GST/HST account

If you supply publications, you have to register for the GST/HST if all of the following apply:

Even if you do not have to register, it may be beneficial to register voluntarily. For more information, see Register voluntarily for a GST/HST account.

For general information about charging, collecting, and remitting the GST/HST, go to GST/HST for businesses.

Prescribed publications for GST/HST purposes

Prescribed publications include:

Soliciting orders of prescribed publications

As noted above, if you solicit orders of prescribed publications, you may need to register for the GST/HST.

Activities considered to be soliciting orders

Activities considered to be soliciting orders

Generally, the CRA considers you to be soliciting orders in Canada if you seek any orders for prescribed publications to be sent by mail or courier to an address in Canada. This includes situations where an employee or agent carries out these activities on your behalf in Canada.

Examples of soliciting orders for prescribed publications include:

  • advertising the sale of your prescribed publications using Canadian print or broadcast media, including websites, that are directed at the Canadian market
  • advertising in non-Canadian print or broadcast media, including websites, but directing the advertisement at the Canadian market (for example, you quote the sale price in Canadian dollars or provide a toll-free number, mailing address, or email address for Canadian customers)
  • including subscription offers targeted specifically at the Canadian market in your publications or in another company's publications (for example, including a subscription offer card that includes pre-paid Canadian postage or quotes a sale price in Canadian funds)
  • sending flyers or leaflets advertising the publication to Canadian homes and businesses
  • distributing addressed mail (electronically or otherwise) that advertises a publication to Canadian homes and businesses
  • mentioning an additional charge in any currency for residents of Canada
Mailing lists

The CRA 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, the CRA considers this to be solicitation in Canada.

Activities not considered to be soliciting orders

Activities not considered to be soliciting orders

The CRA does not consider you to be soliciting orders for prescribed publications in Canada if:

  • 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 an offer notice for a prescribed publication in publications that are destined for the Canadian market, but the notice is not specifically directed at the Canadian market

If you send a renewal notice to a Canadian resident for a subscription that they did not originally receive 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, the CRA does 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.

When to charge the GST/HST on publications

If you are registered for the GST/HST (or have to register for it), you have to charge and collect the GST/HST on sales of prescribed publications you sell in the following situations:

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, not when it is imported. As a result, foreign publications sold to Canadian residents are taxed in the same way as Canadian publications.

Point-of-sale rebate of the provincial part of the HST 

Certain 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 a printed book
  • an audio recording that is all, or substantially all, a spoken reading of a printed book
  • composite property that consists of a printed book and a read-only medium (or a right to access a website under certain conditions), which is wrapped, packaged, or prepared for sale as a single product under specific situations
  • a bound or unbound printed version of scripture of any religion

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

For more information, 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 for the GST/HST, you have to charge and collect the GST/HST in advance on bulk shipments of publications that will be sent to Canada. This applies to bulk shipments of publications that:

This can also apply to bulk shipments of 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 "Rate of GST/HST" of this form. If there is no proof of registration, the CBSA will collect the GST/HST from the importer when the shipment is imported.

GST/HST in special cases

There are some exceptions for publications to the general GST/HST rules, as well as specific rules that apply in certain situations.

GST/HST exemptions under the Excise Tax Act

Certain publications classified under section 1 of Schedule VII to the Excise Tax Act are free of GST/HST if they meet all of the following conditions:

  • They are not classified under tariff item No. 9804.30.00
  • They are imported into Canada
  • There are no customs duties on them under the Customs Tariff

This exemption applies to the following (the tariff item number is noted in brackets):

  • personal exemptions for returning residents: Canadian residents who return from a trip outside the country are entitled to duty-free and tax-free exemptions (98.04)
  • effects of former residents: former residents of Canada who have lived abroad for at least one year can 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)
  • effects of settlers: 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

You do not have to charge the GST/HST on certain goods that are delivered or made available outside Canada, including:

  • 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.

Example 

ABC Video Company sends a videotape to a Canadian customer 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 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 free of charge to a pre-determined group of Canadian residents. Application of the GST/HST depends on whether you are a registrant.

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.

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, the CRA will use an attached invoice to determine a publication's value. If this value is greater than $20, the shipment is taxable when it is imported. 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 send them to the individual publishers involved. Publishers are responsible for delivering the publication to the subscriber when they receive the order.

As a subscription agent, you are required to register for the GST/HST 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.

When you are involved in this type of sale between a publisher and a customer, you, as the subscription agent, are responsible for collecting and remitting the GST/HST. You should give publishers your business number and ask them to print it on the invoice or declaration that accompanies the shipment when it is imported.

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 concludes a contracts with Pub Company for the price of the books and commission, which will be paid when the contract is signed. The university pays SA Company for the price of the books, its service of contracting the publisher, and the GST/HST payable on the books and service. SA Company collects the GST/HST from the university and remits it to the CRA. 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 that accompanies the shipment.

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

Canadian residents may be members of a non-resident association that sends out a publication included in its membership fees. In this situation, the GST/HST may apply if the association is 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).

The following rules apply to an imported publication that is supplied as a benefit of membership:

  • If you provide proof of your GST/HST registration, the publications are not taxable at the time of 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

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

If your association is a GST/HST registrant, 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 the CRA for information.

Unsolicited books sent to libraries and universities

If you send unsolicited books free of charge to universities, university faculty members, book reviewers, or other educational institutions located in Canada, the GST/HST may apply.

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.

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, the CRA will use an attached invoice to determine a publications's value. If the value is greater than 20$, the shipment is taxable when it is imported. If the value is $20 or less, GST/HST is not charged unless you are required to register but have not done so.

If the publications are shipped to Canada by mail, Canada Post will collect the appropriate postal handling fee.

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.

Notes

Tariff item No. 9816.00.00 applies to certain goods brought into Canada by individuals as gifts for friends.

The Commercial Samples Remission Order grants 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 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.

If you are not registered for the GST/HST, the value of the shipment determines whether the GST/HST is charged. If the value is greater than 20$, the shipment is taxable when it is imported. If the value is $20 or less, GST/HST is not charged unless you are required to register but have not done so.

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.

To avoid having to pay the GST/HST and the postal handling fee, the library should include adequate information with the book so that the CRA can identify the item as non-taxable. This information should be included on the postal declaration form attached to the parcel. If the book is sent by courier, the goods will be classified under tariff item No. 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 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.

GST/HST for imported publications

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 more or less 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. For more information, see Input tax credits.

If the amount of tax you charged to your customers is more than the amount of your ITCs, send the difference to the CRA 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 Complete and file a return – When to file and Remit (pay) the tax you collected – When to remit (pay).

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