Tax privileges: GST and HST rebate procedures

Circular note No. XDC-1433 of July 3, 2008

Most recent date of change: October 24, 2017

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (Office of Protocol) presents its compliments to Their Excellencies the Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Charges d’affaires, a.i. accredited to Canada, as well as to the Heads of International Organizations and other offices established in Canada, and has the honour to clarify the procedures for obtaining a rebate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) for purchases made in Canada for official or personal use.

The Department particularly asks that diplomatic missions transmit the content of this Note to all consular posts established in Canada, including those headed by an honorary consular officer.

1. Who is entitled to GST/HST rebate

In Canada, suppliers charge the GST/HST on taxable goods and services to foreign states, international organizations and other offices, and members of their representation. However, the above may be eligible for relief of the GST/HST and thus able to recover such tax by claiming a rebate.

Entitlement to GST/HST rebate is determined strictly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, whose duty it is to provide the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with the list of eligible diplomatic missions, consular posts, international organizations and other offices, as well as the names of accredited officials and officers and their spouses. Decisions regarding eligibility are based mainly on, but not limited to, the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act and its regulations, and on bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding in this area. In the interest of equality, the Department has decided that duly accredited foreign officials and officers of international organizations serving in Canada temporarily (less than one year) are eligible for the same GST/HST rebate as foreign officials and officers of the same category posted to Canada for a longer duration.

2. Procedural and policy requirements

2.1 On-line information and form GST498 E – all provinces with the exception of Québec

The website of the CRA provides general information on the GST/HST regime applicable to diplomatic missions, consular posts, international organizations and other offices. It also provides access to the form that must be submitted to claim the GST/HST rebate. Consult and print the current form, in PDF format with instructions on how to complete it.

Submitting a rebate application using old versions of form GST498 is not advisable because it increases the risk of delays and errors. The updated version posted on the above-mentioned Web page is simpler and easier to fill out, and it greatly facilitates the processing of the application. 

2.2 On-line information and Form FPZ-2498-V(2014-12) – province of Québec only

Eligible consular posts, international organizations and permanent Member State Missions to international organizations based in Québec, as well as accredited foreign representatives whose personal residence is located in Québec, must submit a claim using the appropriate form in order to obtain the GST/HST rebate. The website of Revenu Québec provides general information on the tax rebate process applicable to those residing in the Province of Québec. The website also provides access to the form that must be filled out in order to claim a GST/HST rebate. Consult and print the current form with instructions, in PDF format.

2.3 Other key requirements

To ensure the effective and efficient processing of official claims and to minimize risks of refusal, it is important to:

  1. submit official receipts that explicitly bear the name of the mission, post or organization;
  2. avoid submitting official receipts that only bear the name of a foreign representative (those receipts should always be filed separately through a personal claim).

To ensure the effective and efficient processing of personal claims and to avoid unnecessary delays:

  1. The individual applicant’s name which appears on the claim must match the legal name appearing on the federal Identity Card;
  2. The applicant must refer to the Business Number on the application (the Business Number is assigned when GSH/HST rebate filers file a first rebate and appears on the notice of assessment);
  3. The applicant, where possible, must consistently use the same mailing address on each claim.
  4. The foreign representative or spouse can claim on behalf of “members of the family forming part of the household”, but can only file one application per month. Spouses who are issued a separate Identity Card must submit an application that is separate from that of the official or officer.

2.4 Offices that are part of diplomatic missions and consular posts

Offices that are part of diplomatic missions or consular posts cannot submit a GST/HST rebate application in their own name or in the name of their own chief. Instead, the application must always be submitted in the name of the supervising diplomatic mission or consular post and contain the primary address of that mission or post. Also, the Department requires that receipts for purchases made by the said offices explicitly refer to the name of the supervising diplomatic mission or consular post and be included with applications for rebate of GST/HST filed in the name of the supervising consular post.

2.5 Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada

No person is eligible to receive a GST/HST rebate on purchases for official or personal use if that person is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. This also holds for honorary consular officers who do not enjoy any GST/HST privilege.

3. Enquiries

Prior to receiving CRA’s notice of assessment, it would be premature for the GST/HST rebate filer to make inquiries with the CRA concerning the status of his/her claim until after sixty (60) days of submitting the claim to the CRA.

Diplomatic missions and consular posts (and their sections), and international organizations and other offices that wish to obtain general information about their eligibility for the GST/HST rebate program and the restrictions in effect, as well as about the eligibility of their accredited officials or officers, may do so by contacting the Department’s Office of Protocol at 343-203-3002. Regular business hours are Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.

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

Ottawa, July 3, 2008