GST/HST - Imports and exports
On this page
- What is the process of importing goods for personal use?
- What is the process of importing or exporting for businesses?
- How does the GST/HST apply to imports and exports?
- Which export programs provide GST/HST relief?
What is the process of importing goods for personal use?
For an overview of importing goods for personal use such as motor vehicles or boats, or by mail/courier, see the import goods for personal use segment.
What is the process of importing or exporting for businesses?
For an overview of the commercial importing or exporting process for businesses, see the step-by-step guides on:
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 ITCs to recover the GST/HST paid or payable on your purchases and operating expenses
For more information, see Registering for a GST/HST account.
How does the GST/HST apply to imports and exports?
Different GST/HST rules apply for businesses that import or export goods or services. Select the situation that applies to you to get more details.
Most goods imported into Canada are subject to the federal GST, which is calculated at the rate of 5% of the duty-paid value of the shipment. This tax must be paid at time of entry and is collected at the border, unless the goods are going directly to a bonded warehouse. In this case, the GST is collected when the goods leave the warehouse and become eligible for sale in Canada.
Several provinces have combined the GST with their provincial sales taxes on various categories of goods, thus creating a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). On most commercial imports, however, only the federal (GST) portion of the HST is applied to the sale.
To know which supplies are GST/HST taxable and at which rate, see GST/HST taxable (including zero-rated) or exempt supplies.
Select the situation that applies to you to get more details.
How does the GST/HST apply to imported goods? (show/hide)
How does the GST/HST apply to 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/HST is calculated on the Canadian dollar value of the goods, including duty and excise tax, and is collected at the border at the same time as these duties and taxes.
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 may 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. In this section:
No tax applies to items specified as non-taxable importations. Examples of non-taxable importations are:
- 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 imported by a charity or public institution that have been donated to the charity or institution;
- goods imported for the sole purpose of maintenance, overhaul, or repairs, if the title or use to those goods does not pass while they are in Canada, and the goods are exported as soon as the services are completed;
- goods imported by manufacturing service companies where the goods are processed for non-residents and later exported without being used in Canada. Any parts to be used in or attached to, and materials directly consumed or expended in the processing of those goods, are also non-taxable. The manufacturing service companies 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 other than for shipping and handling; and
- 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, or other similar publications, where 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.
In most cases, the HST applies at the border to taxable importations of non-commercial goods imported by a resident of a participating province, regardless of the point of entry into Canada or customs clearance.
Taxable non-commercial goods imported into a participating province by a resident of such a province are subject to the HST on importation, except for motor vehicles required to be registered in a participating province, or a mobile home or floating home that has been used or occupied in Canada by an individual.
Although the provincial part of the HST is not payable when you import commercial goods that are destined for the participating provinces, the goods may be subject to the self-assessment. 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.
The self-assessment rule for goods will also apply when goods are brought into a particular participating province from another participating province for which the provincial part of the HST is lower. If a person is required to self-assess under this rule, the amount of tax will be determined by multiplying the difference between the provincial part of the HST for the destination participating province and the provincial part of the HST for the origin province by either the amount paid for the property or the fair-market value of the good at the time of bringing it in.
During a business trip, a Prince Edward Island resident purchases a watch in Ontario for $10,000 plus $1,300 HST (5% is the federal part of the HST ($500) and 8% is the provincial part of the HST ($800)). When returning to Prince Edward Island, the Prince Edward Island resident would be required to self-assess tax on the $10,000 at the rate of 1% (the 9% Prince Edward Island provincial part of the HST less the 8% Ontario provincial part of the HST), which in this example would be $100.
How to self-assess
If you are registered, the tax is payable when the goods are brought into a participating province. Enter this amount on line 405 of your GST/HST return. You may be entitled 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 details 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).
How does the GST/HST apply to imported services and intangible personal property? (show/hide)
How does the GST/HST apply to 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 do not pay the GST or the federal part of the HST if you acquire them to use at least 90% in your commercial activities (100% in the case of a financial institution).
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 directly to us.
The tax is calculated on the amount you were charged for the service or IPP in Canadian dollars, and the tax is payable in the reporting period in which the amount for the service or the IPP was paid or became payable.
If you are not registered for the GST/HST, you still have to pay tax on imported services or IPP. Use Form GST59, GST/HST Return for Imported Taxable Supplies, Qualifying Consideration, and Internal and External Changes, to remit the tax. The tax is due by the end of the month following the calendar month in which the amount for the services or IPP was paid or became payable. In this section:
If you are a resident in a participating province, you may have to pay the provincial part of the HST if you buy services or IPP in a non-participating province and the following conditions apply:
- the imported services or IPP are not used at least 90% in your commercial activities; and
- the services or IPP are for consumption, use, or supply more than 10% in the participating provinces.
You may also have to self-assess the provincial part of the HST if you use, consume, or supply goods, services or IPP in a participating province with a higher HST rate than the participating province where you acquired them.
You do not have to self-assess the provincial part of the HST if the tax payable from all amounts to be self-assessed in a calendar month is less than $25.
You do not have to self-assess the provincial part of the HST if you are a registrant and the service or IPP is consumed, used, or supplied at least 90% in your commercial activities.
For more information on the rules, and the formula for self-assessment for services and IPP, see Guide RC4022, General Information for GST/HST Registrants.
How to self-assess
If you are registered, the tax is payable when the services or IPP are brought into a participating province. Enter this amount on line 405 of your GST/HST return.
If you are not registered for 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).
Goods and services that are normally subject to the GST/HST may be untaxed when exported from Canada. In this case, they are referred to as “zero-rated” goods or services.
Select the situation that applies to you to get more détails.
How does the GST/HST apply to exported goods? (show/hide)
How does the GST/HST apply to exported goods?
Generally, there are two ways for exported goods supplied in Canada to be zero-rated (taxed at 0%).
The first is if the following conditions are met when the purchaser takes delivery of the goods in Canada:
- 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 his or her personal use)
- the purchaser exports the goods as soon as is reasonable in the circumstance after you deliver them
- the purchaser does not buy the goods to consume, use, or supply in Canada before exporting them
- after buying the goods and before exporting them, the purchaser does not further process, transform, or alter the goods in Canada, unless it is reasonably necessary or incidental to transport them
- you keep satisfactory evidence, for audit purposes, that the purchaser has 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, the purchaser is not registered for GST/HST purposes
The second is 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:
- is retained to ship the property to a destination outside Canada
- is retained either 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
If the conditions for zero-rating are not met, you have 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 the GST/HST rebate, the non-resident purchaser has to export the goods from Canada within 60 days of delivery, as well as 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.
A purchaser who is registered for GST/HST purposes can apply for authorization to issue an export certificate, which, when provided to the supplier, will cause the goods to be zero-rated. For more information, see GST/HST Memoranda Series Chapter 4-5-2, Exports - Tangible Personal Property.
How does the GST/HST apply to exported services? (show/hide)
Notice to reader
Under proposed changes, the supply of a service of rendering technical or customer support to individuals by means of telecommunications (for example, by telephone, email, or web chat) will generally be zero-rated for GST/HST purposes under certain conditions. This measure will apply to supplies made after Budget Day. For more information, see Exported Call Centre Services in the 2016 Federal Budget - Tax Measures: Supplementary Information.
How does the GST/HST apply to exported services?
You do not charge the GST/HST on services you perform totally outside Canada, or on services that relate to real property situated outside Canada.
Services, other than transportation services, that you perform on temporarily imported goods are zero-rated. The goods must be brought into Canada for the sole purpose of having the service performed on them and must be exported as soon as possible. Any parts supplied along with these services are also zero-rated.
- certain advisory, professional, or consulting services;
- advertising services to an unregistered non-resident person;
- advisory, consulting, or research services to help a non-resident person establish a residence or business in Canada;
- services and parts for goods or real property acquired to fulfill an obligation under warranty for an unregistered non-resident person;
- custodial or nominee services for the non-resident person's securities or precious metals;
- training services to an unregistered non-resident person (other than an individual) to teach non-resident individuals or to give examinations for courses leading to certificates, diplomas, licences, or similar documents, or classes or licence ratings that attest to the individuals' competence or to give an exam to practise or perform a trade or vocation;
- services to an unregistered non-resident person of destroying or discarding goods, or the services of dismantling goods for the purpose of exporting them;
- services to an unregistered non-resident person of testing or inspecting goods acquired or brought into Canada for this service and the goods are to be destroyed or discarded in the course of providing the service or on its completion;
- 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; and
- services made in Canada to a non-resident person by electronic means, may be zero-rated. For more information, see GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin B-090, GST/HST and Electronic commerce.
Remember that you can claim input tax credits to recover the GST/HST you paid or owe on purchases and expenses related to your zero-rated goods and services. See Input tax credits for more information.
How does the GST/HST apply to exports of intangible personal property? (show/hide)
How does the GST/HST apply to exports of intangible personal property?
Most supplies of IPP (other than intellectual property) made to persons who are non-registered 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 that is situated in Canada or to tangible personal property that is ordinarily situated 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 may only be used in Canada; or
- 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 registration status and 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.
Zero-rating applies to eligible supplies of IPP (other than intellectual property) made after March 19, 2007, and to eligible supplies of IPP made on or before March 19, 2007, if GST/HST was neither charged nor collected. If you are a registrant who has made such supplies on or before March 19, 2007, and the Canada Revenue Agency has taken an amount into account in assessing your net tax for a reporting period as GST/HST that became collectible in respect of such supplies, you may be eligible for a refund of any resulting overpayment in respect of the supplies. See GST/HST Info Sheet GI-034, Exports of Intangible Personal Property, for further information.
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.
Drop shipment rules
Drop shipment rules
A drop-shipment generally happens when a non-resident who is not registered for GST/HST acquires goods from a registrant in Canada and tells the registrant to deliver the goods to another person in Canada.
A drop-shipment also occurs when an unregistered non-resident contracts with a registrant in Canada to have certain commercial services performed on goods, and the registrant causes the goods to be delivered to another person in Canada or to a non-resident person for export.
The drop-shipment rules generally relieve the non-resident (the supplier) who is not registered for GST/HST from paying tax.
An unregistered non-resident can take advantage of the drop-shipment rules where a GST/HST registrant sells goods to the unregistered non-resident or does 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 may be a customer of the non-resident or another resident who is taking possession of the goods for the purpose of performing additional work on them. In this section:
Drop-shipments to registered persons
When a GST/HST registrant transfers physical possession of your goods to a third party (consignee) who is 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 from the GST/HST registrant to you.
Drop-shipment certificates ensure that consignees are aware of their potential GST/HST liability when another registrant transfers physical possession of your goods to them. By issuing the certificate, the consignees acknowledge that 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 unregistered persons.
We accept blanket drop-shipment certificates. These certificates cover more than one transfer of physical possession of goods from one registrant to another (the consignee).
A valid drop-shipment certificate must contain the following information:
- the consignee's name and Business Number (BN);
- 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 that they are for the recipient's consumption, use, or supply; and
- 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.
You buy radios from a registered supplier. You instruct the supplier to have the radios delivered to a registered inspector. The inspector provides the supplier with 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 provides the inspector with 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.
To learn more how drop-shipment rules apply see the following:
Transfer of goods to a carrier or warehouse (show/hide)
A GST/HST registrant transfers your goods to a carrier or warehouse (bailee) and at the same time tells the bailee 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/commercial services from the GST/HST registrant to you.
A GST/HST registrant transfers your goods to a warehouse and the warehouse operator is instructed under the agreement for the storage of the goods to store the goods. The goods are stored until a third party purchaser is found, and 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.
A GST/HST registrant transfers your goods to a warehouse and instructs 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 a registrant, and the goods will not leave Canada, in order not to pay tax to the first registrant, you can instruct the warehouse to issue a drop-shipment certificate to the registrant.
When the certificate is issued, the warehouse operator becomes potentially liable for tax on the fair market value of the goods unless, at the time of the transfer of physical possession of the goods to a third party, the warehouse operator obtains a drop-shipment certificate from the third party.
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, we consider the warehouse operator to have taken physical possession of the goods.
The warehouse operator has to pay GST/HST to us if and 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 person to whom he or she transfers physical possession of the goods.
Goods kept by registered suppliers (show/hide)
When a GST/HST registrant sells goods to you and transfers ownership, but not physical possession of the goods to you, the registrant does not charge GST/HST on the sale if the registrant keeps physical possession of the goods in order to do the following:
- transfer physical possession of the goods to you, a subsequent owner, or another person designated by you or a subsequent owner; or
- perform a commercial service on the goods for you or a subsequent owner.
The registrant assumes potential liability for the goods when physical possession of the goods is transferred to another person. The registrant is relieved of this liability when the registrant receives a drop-shipment certificate from the third party at the time physical possession is transferred.
Goods subsequently exported (show/hide)
- transfers physical possession of the goods at a place in Canada to a person 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; or
- transfers physical possession of the goods to a person at a place outside Canada.
For more information on exportation, see Exported goods.
Conditional sales contracts and sale-leaseback arrangements (show/hide)
However, under the drop-shipment rules, no GST/HST is charged. These rules also apply if the unregistered non-resident is purchasing the goods for the purpose of leasing them to another registrant in Canada.
In this situation, the second registrant must issue a drop-shipment certificate to the first registrant and will only be required to self-assess tax if the second registrant is acquiring the goods for use in non-commercial activities.
When the drop-shipment rules do not apply (show/hide)
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 GST/HST.
We consider 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, GST/HST is payable when the registrant delivers or transfers the goods to the recipient. GST/HST is 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; or
- nil, 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.
Which export programs provide GST/HST relief?
You may be eligible for relief of the GST/HST on certain imports and domestic purchases. Use the following tabs to find out more about the two programs.
Export Distribution Centre Program
Export Distribution Centre Program (EDCP)
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 in the course of their processing or distribution activities to use an EDCP certificate to acquire or import, without having to pay the GST/HST, most inventory, property to be added to other goods in the course of processing, and customers' goods on which processing services are provided.
For more information, see GST/HST Technical Information Bulletin B-088, Export Distribution Centre Program.
Are you eligible to apply for an authorization?
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 in which the authorization will be in effect, all of the following criteria are met:
- 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 the provision of non-basic services will be 10% or less, or the total value you add to your customers' goods will be 20% or less
How can you apply for authorization?
If you meet the above eligibility conditions, you can apply for an 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 earlier, and can be renewed.
Exporters of Processing Services Program
Exporters of Processing Services Program (EOPS)
The Exporters of Processing Services Program (EOPS) enables eligible businesses to import certain goods and/or acquire goods in Canada that will eventually be re-exported without paying the GST/HST.
A GST/HST registrant may obtain authorization to import goods on a tax-free basis where the goods are imported solely for the purpose of having services performed that are supplied by the registrant to a non-resident person.
This program is intended to alleviate the cash-flow cost that would typically occur for such a registrant where the registrant imports the goods and would otherwise be required to pay tax on their importation and then have to wait for a net tax refund to be paid to recover the tax.
The GST/HST registrant must import the goods for the purpose of supplying a "processing", storage, or distribution service in respect of the goods in Canada in circumstances in which the goods, or the product of their processing, if any, will subsequently 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 this 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. This includes imported goods that are to be incorporated or transformed into, attached to, or combined or assembled with, other goods that are processed in Canada. EOPS 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.
Are you eligible to apply for the GST/HST relief?
You can participate in the EOPS program if all of the following apply:
- The processor must be a GST/HST registrant that has been authorized to use the program (the application to use the program must be made prior to the importation of the goods).
- The GST/HST registrant cannot be 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 another person.
- The GST/HST registrant does not obtain ownership or co-ownership of the imported goods or of the exported processed products while they are in Canada. However, the importer may supply property, such as components or parts, taken from the importer's own inventory, which is added to the imported goods in the course of their processing.
- Neither the imported goods or the processed products are the property of a resident while they are in Canada.
- The GST/HST registrant must not transfer physical possession of the imported goods or the processed products to another person in Canada. For example, the goods cannot be drop-shipped to another service provider in Canada. An exception to this is where the importer transfers possession of the imported goods or the processed products for the purpose of their storage, their transportation to or from a place of storage, or their transportation in the course of being exported.
- The exportation of the imported goods or processed products must occur within four years from the day on which the goods are accounted for under section 32 of the Customs Act.
- The GST/HST registrant has provided any security that may be required as a condition of obtaining an import certificate.
How can you apply the GST/HST relief?
GST/HST registrants who import duty free goods and have no need to seek duty relief must apply to use the EOPS program by sending a letter making this request to their nearest tax services office. The letter should contain evidence showing that the person will import goods or materials to provide processing services and/or has done so in the past where the resultant products are exported.
A review of your operations will be conducted and the CRA tax services will be consulted to determine whether an import certificate for the GST/HST would be allowable. When both offices are in agreement, you will be given a duties relief certificate allowing the GST/HST relief.
The authorizations for relief from the payment of the GST/HST under the EOPS program are valid for three years.
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