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How Much is Sales Tax in Vancouver and British Columbia?

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How Much is Sales Tax in Vancouver and British Columbia?

Colorful Canadian dollar bills and the two-tone $2 coin

© Chloë Ernst

British Columbia has under-gone a recent tax transition. Simply put, before April 1, 2013, shoppers paid 12% HST on most goods and services. After April 1, 2013, you pay a 5% federal tax (GST) on many items, and an additional 7% PST on some.

Read on for full lists of travel-related tax rates, or download the pdf list from the provincial government PST website.

After April 1, 2013

As of April 1, 2013, you pay a varying percentage of tax in British Columbia. Whether you are charged no tax, 5% tax, or 12% tax depends on what you are buying.

Travel services that are still tax exempt (after April 1, 2013):

  • Public transit fares
  • BC Ferries fares
  • Basic groceries
  • International air travel -- Continental U.S. flights excluded, when originating in BC
  • International rail, bus, or ship travel (originating in BC)

 

Travel services that incur only 5% GST (after April 1, 2013):
  • Domestic travel by air, rail or bus (originating in BC)
  • Continental U.S. air travel (originating in BC)
  • Restaurant meals
  • Attraction admission fees, including passes for ski resorts, museums, theater performances, sports events, and driving ranges
  • Books, newspapers, and magazines
  • Snack foods
  • Taxis
  • Camping sites
  • Massage therapy

 

Travel services that incur 5% GST and 7% PST (after April 1, 2013):

  • Alcoholic beverages (10% PST)
  • Accommodations (plus any additional hotel tax)
  • Souvenirs

Before April 1, 2013:

Between July 1, 2010 and March 31, 2013, most shops, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses in Vancouver charged a 12% tax on all goods and services. The tax was called the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), and was calculated on the receipt.

Travel services that incurred 12% HST (through March 31, 2013):

  • Restaurant meals, including alcohol
  • Accommodations (plus any additional hotel tax)
  • Tours and transportation, such as bus travel, taxis, and flights
  • Attraction admission fees, including ski passes
  • Souvenirs and snack foods (but not groceries)

There were only a few categories of items that did not incur the HST. Groceries and prescriptions were the most relevant to travelers.

Why the Tax Change

In July 2010, the HST system replaced an older tax system (5% GST -- Goods and Services Tax, plus a 7% PST -- Provincial Sales Tax). A 2011 public referendum forced politicians to revert to the the old GST/PST system.

 

Tax Rebates for Travelers

The government canceled the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program in 2007.

The lone rebate available to tourists is through the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program. This is a 50% refund of tax paid on tour packages -- but only when purchased from a tour operator or as part of a convention. This rebate applies to travel packages that bundle transportation and accommodation, like ski, golf, and other package vacations. Note that this rebate does not apply to independent travelers.

For more information, contact the Canada Revenue Agency location in Summerside, PEI:

  • Summerside Tax Centre, Canada Revenue Agency
    275 Pope Rd.
    Summerside, PE
    C1N 6C6
    Toll-free: 1-800-565-9353
    Phone: 902-432-5604 (outside Canada)
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