Canada’s British Columbia confirms new date for tax on digital services

Foreign sellers of digital services with sales to British Columbia residents will soon have registration obligations to collect PST on these sales.

Sep 3, 2020

The Canadian province of British Columbia (B.C.) has confirmed April 1, 2021, as the date for its plan to start taxing foreign-supplied digital services.

The news comes five months after the B.C. government placed their original plans on hold. As a result of British Columbia's COVID-19 Action Plan, the expansion of tax registration requirements to foreign suppliers of digital services had been postponed. The original introduction date was July 1, 2020. The postponement also applied to Canadian sellers of goods. 

In early September the B.C. Ministry of Finance issued a notice confirming that Provincial Sales Tax (PST) at a rate of 7% must be applied on foreign-supplied digital service sales to B.C. residents from April 1, 2020.

Background: B.C. 2020 budget had revealed a plan to tax digital sales

The original taxation move was announced in mid-February during the province’s 2020 Budget. The detail was included in this section of the B.C. budget (updated on September 2 to apply new date):

“Effective April 1, 2021, Canadian sellers of goods and Canadian and foreign sellers of software and telecommunication services are required to register to collect PST if specified B.C. revenues exceed $10,000.”

This information means that BC’s population of over 5 million will be the latest global region to change taxation rules relating to the consumption of digital content from overseas.

Note the inclusion of a sales threshold of CAD$10,000 in the B.C. budget quote above. For context, back in January 2019, Québec included a CAD$30,000 threshold in its Québec Sales Tax reform while there is no sales threshold in Saskatchewan.

In a statement quoted by Canada's Global News website, the B.C. Ministry of Finance gave some context to this taxation amendment, one that reflects the reality of these global taxation reforms:

“B.C. has had a sales tax in place since 1948 — that has not changed. However, as people have shifted to buying more and more goods and services online, legislation in many jurisdictions hasn’t kept pace. Clarifying registration requirements will future-proof our tax system as the shift to digital purchasing continues.”

Such rules are also typically introduced as a means to raise revenue for tax authorities across the globe. According to CBC news British Columbia "estimates the tax will generate CAD$11 million for the 2020/2021 fiscal year and CAD$16 million for the following fiscal year."

Further reading: Québec and Saskatchewan moves

Previously, in January 2019, the Canadian province of Québec introduced new rules extending its sales tax system to the cross-border supply of digital services by non-resident companies. Saskatchewan did likewise.

These introductions have been considered a success with more revenue collected than expected. The new rules required foreign vendors without a PE or significant presence in Québec to register for and collect Québec sales tax (QST) on their sales to Québec-based consumers. They do so via a simplified registration system. More here on our Québec-specific blog.

Here at Taxamo, we believe that there will be a federal tax rule change in the future, a view further bolstered by the B.C. sales tax reform. You can read more on this view here.


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