How Do You Get a GST/HST Refund?
For Small Businesses, Input Tax Credits (ITCs) Are the Answer
If you are operating a Canadian business and registered for the GST/HST (see Do I Need to Register My Business for GST/HST? and Starting a Business in Canada: GST Registration), you can get back the GST/HST you've paid out during a particular reporting period by claiming it through Input Tax Credits (ITCs) on your GST/HST return.
When you complete your GST/HST return, you declare the amount of GST/HST you collected from various customers and deduct your Input Tax Credits (ITCs) from this amount to determine your GST/HST net tax. If the resulting amount is negative, you will get a GST/HST refund. For information on goods and services that you do not need to charge for see Examples of GST Exempt Goods and Services.
Note that the general rules for claiming Input Tax Credits are just like the rules for claiming any business expenses; you must have receipts to back up your claims and you can only claim Input Tax Credits "to the extent that your purchases are for consumption, use, or supply in your commercial activities" (General Information for GST/HST Registrants, Canada Revenue Agency).
How Long Do I Have to Claim Input Tax Credits?
Normally you should claim your Input Tax Credits for the reporting period in which you made the purchases. If for some reason you missed or forgot to file an ITC you can claim it in a later reporting period. The claim must be made within four years from the end of the reporting period in which the claim should have been made, unless your business has had revenues in excess of six million dollars in each of the previous two fiscal years, in which case the ITC claim must be made within two years from the end of the original reporting period.
Keeping Receipts for Input Tax Credits
You must retain all receipts in support of your ITC claims in case the CRA wishes to examine your records. The CRA can audit your GST/HST return up to four years after submission.
The Quick Method of Accounting for GST/HST
If your business does not normally qualify for GST/HST refunds (that is the total GST/HST that you collect from sales is more than what you pay out for supplies) you can elect to use the Quick Method of Accounting for GST/HST. The quick method was introduced to save paperwork and accounting for small businesses.
In a nutshell the quick method allows you to pay a reduced portion of the GST/HST you collect based on a formula rather than claiming ITCs on most of your purchases and paying the difference between what you collect and what you pay. For certain types of businesses that have few taxable expenses (such as IT contractors, writers, graphic artists, etc.) the quick method allows you to save money.
- You must have been in business for a 365 day period prior to the start of the reporting period.
- Your annual revenue (including GST/HST) must be $400,000 or less for the first or last four of five fiscal quarters.
- Your business must not provide legal, accounting, bookkeeping, financial consulting, tax preparation or consulting services.
Note that even though you do not to state the actual GST/HST collected or paid on your return using the quick method you still have to retain records of the information for six years after the year in question in the case of a CRA audit.
For more on the rules regarding Input Tax Credits and how to use them, see What are Input Tax Credits?
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