Tip of the Month: Small Business and GST

We’re starting a great new feature in our blog. At the beginning of each month we’ll outline a simple, easy small business tip that can have a big impact on your day to day small business operations. This month we take a look at GST and HST. Did you know that as of July 1, 2010 there will be four provinces charging HST instead of GST?

Do I have to charge GST?
In Canada, any business, including one-person small businesses such as trades people, consultants and contractors, must charge GST if they gross $30,000 or more in a year. If a business earned less than $ 30,000 they do not have to charge GST but may still choose to do so if they wish. If you think your own business may earn close to this amount, you should consider going ahead and charging GST, as it is easier to do this than to be caught at the end of the year, earning more than anticipated, and having to pay GST that you have not charged. So is there anything in it for you as a small business? Yes. Just as you charge GST on sales and submit it to the government as taxes, you can also claim the GST you have paid on business purchases when you do your taxes- this is called an input tax credit or ITCs.

How do I charge GST?
To charge GST you must register for a Business Number with the federal government. Once you have registered you are ready to charge GST. Simply include your sub-total, GST amount, total on all invoices, and Business Number. Your Business Number proves you are not fraudulently charging GST.

Remember to keep track of the GST you have charged and save that money to remit to the government. This is not part of your cash flow- don’t spend it or borrow from it- the money belongs to the government. Also keep records of the GST you have paid on business expenses, to claim it back as an input tax credit.

What about HST?
If your province charges Harmonized Sales Tax, you simply charge the HST in place of the GST. To learn more about HST and the provinces that charge it, or who may be switching to HST soon, please visit http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/gnrl/hst-tvh/menu-eng.html.

How do I register for GST or HST?
Registration can be done on line or over the telephone. The online process takes about 20 minutes. You can back-date the onset of your registration up to 30 days; however you will not receive your official Business Number, which you must have and share with clients to charge GST for five business days after you register. It does not cost any money to register.

To register online, please visit http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/rgstrng/menu-eng.html

To register over the phone, please call the Canada Revenue Agency number for Business and Self-Employed individuals, which is 1-800-959-5525.

Although dealing with GST may seem daunting at first, it is a fairly straightforward process to set up and include in your business. There. We just talked about taxes and the federal government in one short blog post- are you okay? We hope so, and look forward to sharing another great GoForth Tip next month.

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