Input Tax Credits – What are they, and Am I Eligible?
Through the help of e-commerce assistance platforms such as Shopify, the barriers to entering and starting a small business have dramatically decreased in recent years. As a result, more and more Canadians are deciding to open up independent businesses. In order for a business to run its operations smoothly, business owners must ensure that they fulfil their sales tax obligations correctly to prevent intervention from the CRA. Below is a brief summary that provides some mechanics and considerations of the Canadian Sales Tax System.
Design of the GST/HST Sales Tax
The HST (for Ontario) Sales Tax is administered and legislated through the Excise Tax Act. Moreover, it is a multi-stage value added tax, imposed on a broad range of goods and services at each stage of the manufacturing and distribution process. Each recipient in the production chain recovers the HST that they paid for the expenses related to their “commercial activities” by claiming input tax credits (ITCs). This ensures that there is no double taxation and that only the final consumer holds the burden of paying the HST tax.
Typically, many businesses incur a lot of expenses related to their commercial activities. For example, a business focusing on producing and selling furniture may pay a lot of HST on the tools they bought to create that furniture. Therefore, it is important that businesses properly redeem their ITCs.
Other common purchases and expenses which may be eligible to claim ITCs include:
- Business start-up costs;
- Legal, accounting, and other professional fees;
- Maintenance and repairs; and
- Business-use-of home expenses.
Requirements / Eligibility for Input Tax Credits
First, the business/taxpayer must be a GST/HST registrant. However, for most small and medium-sized businesses in Canada, registration for GST/HST purposes is required.
Specifically, if you provide taxable supplies and not a small supplier, then you must be a GST/HST registrant. The CRA generally considers a business to no longer be a small supplier if total revenues from taxable supplies exceed over $30,000 in a single calendar quarter or over 4 consecutive calendar quarters.
Second, registrants are only allowed to claim ITCs for expenses related to “commercial activities.” The CRA states that commercial activities must be a business or adventure or concern in the nature of trade that has a reasonable expectation of profit, and is not the making of exempt supplies. Alternatively, inputs to activities that are neither part of the supply making process, not related to it, or for personal use are not eligible for ITCs.
The exception to the rule above is for the supply of real property, other than an exempt supply. In this case, any supply of real property, whether or not there is a reasonable expectation of profit is included in the definition of commercial activity. Finally, to claim an ITC, the expenses or purchases must be reasonable in quality, nature, and cost in relation to the nature of the business.
Potential Issues to Look Out For
As previously mentioned, the responsibility of charging, collecting and remitting HST falls on each business or chain of the manufacturing process. Similarly, claiming appropriate ITCs for expenses incurred by the business fall on the burden of the business. It is the responsibility of the registrant to keep records and documents to validate any claims under a CRA audit.
Issues regarding the “nature of the business” and “relation to commercial activity” have particularly been contentious and challenging for taxpayers to understand. If you need assistance in learning more about ITCs or are already in dispute with the CRA, contact us today. Professionals at Rosen Kirshen Tax Law have a proven track record of helping taxpayers successfully prove the eligibility of their ITCs.
This article provides information of a general nature only. It does not provide legal advice nor can it or should it be relied upon. All tax situations are specific to their facts and will differ from the situations in this article. If you have specific legal questions you should consult a lawyer.