Last minute rush to return to PST

PST registration is required for businesses in B.C.

Naomi Yamamoto

The brief era of the harmonized sales tax ended in B.C. Monday, with a last-minute scramble by thousands of businesses to register as collectors of the revived provincial sales tax.

About 100,000 businesses in B.C. are required to register and collect PST from customers. By the Easter weekend, about 80,000 of them had done so, said Naomi Yamamoto, B.C.’s minister of state for small business.

“I think what most consumers will be doing is looking at their receipts,” Yamamoto said Sunday. “In most cases they’ll be paying the same as they did prior to April 1, unless you’re getting your hair cut, or buying a ski ticket or you’re paying your golf membership or going to a restaurant, or buying a bike.”

The good news for barbers, bike shops, restaurants and other labour service providers is that they see a seven per cent tax reduction. The bad news is that they have to administer two sales taxes, the PST and the five per cent GST, which continues to apply to goods and services.

There are a few anomalies, such as insulation and weatherstripping, where sales tax falls by seven per cent as historic PST exemptions resume Monday, but most retail purchases will remain subject to both GST and PST at a combined rate of 12 per cent.

Yamamoto said businesses can register online by going to www.pstinbc.ca or www.gov.bc.ca/pst and selecting the registration link. Using incorporation documents, the process should take about 15 minutes.

Business owners who don’t register immediately can still correct transactions made after the deadline, because the first online remittance of PST is expected at the end of May.

Premier Christy Clark marked the transition with a video, reminding business operators to register. Clark noted that the HST was a benefit to the film industry, manufacturers and other businesses that benefited from input tax credits.

NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said a statistically average family will be about $350 ahead with the removal of the HST, which was rejected in a mail-in referendum in June 2011.

Ralston acknowledged that low-income people will lose the increased HST rebates that have been paid quarterly since the HST took effect in 2010. But he said that will be balanced by the reduced sales taxes they pay in restaurants and other service purchases.

Tobacco taxes went up by seven per cent with the HST, and that tax will remain. Liquor taxes have also been adjusted to be unchanged with either tax, although restaurants will pay increased tax on liquor sales with the return to PST.

A separate seven per cent tax on private used vehicle purchases also remains in place. It was imposed along with the HST to make private sellers subject to the same taxation as car dealers.