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Elimination of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in British Columbia and Reinstatement of Points-of-Sale Exemption of the Provincial Sales Tax (PST)

Circular Note NO. XDC-0296 of March 28, 2013

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Office of Protocol) presents its compliments to Their Excellencies the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and notified Chargés d’affaires, a.i. accredited to Canada, and the Heads of International Organizations and other Offices established in Canada, and has the honour to provide information regarding the reinstatement of the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) in the Province of British Columbia following that province’s referendum on the elimination of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), and the transitional processes that will be implemented to enable point-of-sale PST exemption.  This note replaces Circular Note XDC-0854 of May 14, 2010.

The Department requests in particular that diplomatic missions transmit the content of this Note to all consular posts established in British Columbia and consular officers whose consular district extends to that province.

Effective April 1, 2013, the HST in British Columbia will be replaced by the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and British Columbia’s PST.

The British Columbia’s PST will have a rate of 7% and eligible missions, international organizations and accredited foreign representatives will benefit from the exemption at point-of-sale. The British Columbia’s Ministry of Finance will be responsible to administer the  PST exemption and determine the eligibility.

As indicated in British Columbia's Finance bulletin, the following foreign representatives, unless they are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada, will be eligible for the PST exemption:

  • diplomatic agents or persons with status equivalent to a diplomatic agent;
  • members of the administrative and technical staff;
  • career consular officers of a post situated in British Columbia, or a post with authority in British Columbia;
  • career consular employees of a consular post situated in British Columbia;  
  • officials of United Nations organizations or other international organizations who have been granted diplomatic privileges under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act; and
  • accredited spouses and partners of persons referred above.

In addition, purchases made on behalf of consular post situated in British Columbia will also qualify for an exemption.

Progressive Re-Instatement of Point-of-Sale PST Exemption for Foreign Representatives

As a priority, the Department is hereby recalling the Identity Cards of all foreign representatives physically residing in the Province of British Columbia and eligible for PST exemption and their accredited spouses or partners.  Missions and International Organizations who have residing members in BC should therefore send the ID cards to the Office of Protocol with a note. The Office of Protocol will subsequently re-issue their ID Card by adding the letters “BC” on the back of it. For foreign representatives residing in BC whose Identity Card will be expiring before June 30, 2013, the Department will treat those request as renewal and will expect Missions, international Organizations and other Offices to provide for these instances the usual required documents.

The Department will also henceforth start issuing future eligible foreign representatives (i.e. new arrival and persons eligible for status extension) an Identity Card that will indicate “BC” on the reverse side of the card.

For all other foreign representatives residing outside British Columbia and eligible for PST exemption, the British Columbia Government has accepted to honour the PST exemption during a transition period by looking at the designation of the identity card. Therefore, foreign representatives who hold an identity card with the designations listed below would be able to receive the exemption at point-of-purchase, even if the letters “BC” do not appear.

What happens if a supplier does not honour the ID Card?

Missions, International Organizations and other Offices should be aware that during the transition period, some retailers may not be able to provide the PST at point-of-purchase. In this specific regard, foreign representatives are required to pay the tax at the time of purchase and if eligible, then claim a refund of the tax paid to the Ministry of Finance of British Columbia by filling out the appropriate form found here Application for Refund  (PDF Version, 120 KB) *

Will GST be payable to suppliers?

Yes. Missions, International Organizations and other Offices, as well as their accredited members, who are currently eligible for the GST exemption will be required to pay the tax and claim a rebate with the Canada Revenue Agency. For further information regarding GST rebate, Missions and International Organizations should refer to Circular Note XDC-1433 of July 3, 2008.

Customs privileges unaffected

All persons entitled to the privilege of importing goods duty and tax free under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act will be relieved of the HST at the time of release. For details regarding importation privileges, Missions and International Organizations should refer to the following document: MEMORANDUM D21-1-1 (PDF Version, 185 KB) *

Additional information with regards to eligibility for the GST/HST rebate program and applicable restrictions should be addressed to the Office of Protocol’s Privileges and Immunities Unit at 613.944.1159.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Office of Protocol) avails itself of this opportunity to renew to Their Excellencies the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and notified Chargés d’affaires, a.i. accredited to Canada, and to the Heads of International Organizations and other Offices established in Canada, the assurances of its highest consideration.

OTTAWA, March 28, 2013


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Date Modified:
2013-06-04