Which Goods and Services are GST Exempt or Zero Rated?

By Randall Orser | Business

If think that your new business may have to charge GST/HST you need to know the difference between zero rated and exempt goods and services because not all businesses need to charge this tax.

For the customer there is no difference between GST exempt and zero rated goods as in both cases they are not charged the tax.  For businesses there is a difference in how the two classes of goods and services have to be entered onto the GST return.  Normally when completing the return a business can claim input tax credits to recover the GST paid or owed on business purchases and expenses.  

  • For zero rated goods a business does not charge or collect GST but can still claim ITC's on it's GST return.
  • For exempt goods and services the tax is not charged or collected and Input Tax Credits cannot be claimed.

Which goods and services are zero rated?

  • Basic groceries but this does not include items not necessary for dietary needs such as snack foods, liquor, soda and candy.
  • Most fishery products except those used for bait.
  • Farm livestock sold for human consumption, GST is charged on livestock sales not used for human consumption such as horses, dogs, and cats.  Animals such as rabbits and goats will be zero rated if sold for consumption or GST will be charged if they are sold as pets.
  • Farm equipment such as tractors, seeders, planters and processing equipment.
  • Prescription drugs and dispensing fees are zero rated however drugs sold over the counter are subject to GST.  
  • Medical devices such as artificial teeth, walkers, wheelchairs, canes, eyeglasses, contact lenses and orthotics and others are zero rated.
  • Freight transportation services involving the movement of goods from Canada to other countries and vice versa.

Which good and services are exempt?

  • Used residential housing, GST is only charged on new or substantially renovated housing.
  • Residential rental accommodation if equal to or greater than one month duration.
  • Music Lessons
  • Medical and dental services except for procedures deemed to be non healthcare-related such medical reports, disability certificates and cosmetic surgery to enhance someone's appearance.
  • Issuing insurance policies 
  • Educational services leading to a certificate or diploma, upgrade certification or tutoring services for a designated school curriculum.
  • Most goods and services provided by a charity.
  • Financial services such as fees for bank accounts.
  • Legal aid services
  • Day care services for children aged 14 or younger
  • Food and beverages in an educational institution

Some goods and services that are exempt from the federal GST are not exempt at the provincial level in provinces that charge a provincial sales tax so they are subject to the tax.  As each province is different businesses should refer to the exemption list for the province in which they are doing business.  For British Columbia check  PST Exemptions.

From an article by Susan Ward

Follow

About the Author

President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.