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Canadian Taxes

The Canadian government has taken several steps to reduce the effect of the goods and services Tax and Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) on tour operators and convention planners bringing groups into Canada from outside the country. The GST is a value-added tax of seven per cent applied on most sales of goods and services provided in Canada. As of April 1997, visitors will pay the HST of 15 per cent on accommodation and goods and services purchased in the provinces of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. 

Non-resident tour operators and other non-resident suppliers of short-term accommodation services who are not GST/HST registrants can claim directly from Revenue Canada the rebate for the tax paid to GST/HST registered suppliers of short-term accommodation (i.e. less than 30 days.) To apply for a rebate for tax paid on accommodation, they must complete a GST 177 application form. Documentation proving that GST/HST was paid and that the final users of the accommodation were non-residents of Canada is necessary. 

Non-resident convention organizers, sponsors, conferences, exhibition and trade organizations will receive similar GST rebates when they purchase meeting room and exhibition space and other convention services. 

GST/HST rebates are available to non-resident convention organizers on the following services when submitting the GST 386 application form: 

  • audio, audio-visual, video services, both the equipment and the technical labour provided to non-resident organization;
  • business equipment (typewriters, computers, photocopiers, desks, chairs, etc.);
  • convention show services, such as the equipment and labour to install items like carpet, tables, chairs, exhibit booths, ashtrays, wastebaskets, plants, drapes, banners, and signs;
  • destination management companies, local experts and services used in organizing the convention;
  • drayage services - the labour and equipment needed to deliver exhibit materials to assigned spaces (also including the storage of crates);
  • electrical services such as power amplification and spot lighting;
  • exhibit design and display - the labour and equipment to design and build displays and exhibits;
  • floral decorations;
  • newsletter services used to publish on-site daily newsletters during the meeting;
  • personnel services such as labour used to staff registration areas and work in the on-site convention office;
  • photography - on-site photographic services recording convention activities;
  • security - on-site security services to control access to the convention and to protect valuables;
  • simultaneous translation equipment and labour;
  • speakers and educational seminars, such as facilitators and course materials for professional development seminars;
  • specialty advertising and premiums, used as promotional materials for convention delegates;
  • telecommunications equipment (telephone, fax, video, audio or computer link-ups);
  • translators and interpreters;
  • transportation services such as shuttle buses between venues (generally hotels and convention centres) during the meeting.
Unlike the GST/HST rebate on short-term accommodations, these convention rebates cannot be assigned to Canadian suppliers. To claim the rebates, you must file directly for the rebate yourself. Revenue Canada has the final word on interpreting these rebate regulations. 

Sponsors of foreign conventions (at least 75 per cent of admissions to conventions are non-residents) are not required charge GST/HST on admissions/registration fees to resident and non-resident delegates. Registered sponsors (Canadian residents, or non-residents whose total Canadian delegates exceed 25 per cent) will charge GST/HST at seven or 15 per cent on admissions/registration fees to Canadian delegates. Tax charged to non-resident delegates on admissions/registration fees will be equal to the tax charged on non-rebateable expenses only. 

Most international transportation services that originate or terminate outside of the taxation area includes the United States (except Hawaii), as well as Canada and the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon are not subject to GST/HST. 

Visitors to Canada can also claim GST/HST refunds individually. Foreign visitors can claim a refund on the GST/HST they have paid if the amount of tax paid is $14 or more. Each individual receipt for goods must show a minimum purchase amount (before taxes), on which GST/HST has been paid, of $50 Canadian. In other words, if they purchase $200 or more in eligible goods and short term accommodation ($214 including tax at seven per cent)  they may apply for a tax refund. The refund requires  
that the eligible goods purchased leave Canada within 60 days of the purchase date. 

Accommodation on which tax is charged is included in the refund program, if the accommodation was provided for less than a month. In all cases visitors must submit original receipts for the eligible accommodation and/or goods purchased. Visitors may mail a GST 176 Refund Application directly to Revenue Canada, or they may complete a GST 327 to claim a cash refund at participating land-based duty-free shops when they leave the country. 

For more information on the GST, call Revenue Canada's Ottawa Tax Services Office at 1-800-959-5525 [and (613) 957-8109 for English enquiries] or 1-800-959-7775 [and (613) 957-9864 for French enquiries]. 

Visitors may wish to call directly to the Visitor Rebate Program in Summerside, P.E.I at 1-800-668-4748 (in Canada only) or (902) 432-5608 (from outside Canada), or their nearest Canadian consulate, embassy or high commission. Click here for rebate application forms. 

Ontario: Retail sales tax is 8 per cent ; restaurant tax is 8 per cent on food and 10 per cent on alcoholic beverages; accommodation tax is 5 per cent. You may apply for a rebate of retail sales tax for purchases of at least $50 on one receipt provided that the goods leave the province. Information: Tel: (613) 523-9760 

Quebec: In Quebec, there is an 6.5 per cent tax on food, liquor, merchandise and accommodations. Visitors may claim a tax refund by submitting a rebate form, available by calling 1-800-567-4692 or (819) 770-8504 locally. Receipts are required for reimbursement. 

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