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Whether you’re an experienced Canadian entrepreneur or just getting started, solving the complexity of GST and HST can feel overwhelming.
A few provinces charge their own provincial sales taxes (PST) along with the federal GST, creating what’s known as a harmonized sales tax, or HST.

What is a GST/HST number?

A GST/HST number is a unique nine-digit business code that signals to the CRA that you are registered for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and/or the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). This code will appear on all of your GST/HST returns.
The CRA has created a simplified method for filing GST/HST returns that may be available to some businesses that meet the eligibility criteria.

Key Components of a GST/HST Return

The table below outlines the key components of a GST/HST return, including sales revenue, input tax credits, GST/HST collected, net GST/HST, total tax payable, and any adjustments.



Reporting Period

The period for which the return is being filed (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually)

Sales Revenue

Total sales revenue generated during the reporting period

Input Tax Credits

GST/HST paid on business expenses eligible for recovery

GST/HST Collected

Total GST/HST collected from customers during the period


(GST/HST Collected) – (Input Tax Credits)

Total Tax Payable

If Net GST/HST is positive, this represents the amount owed to the government. If negative, it represents a refund owed to the business.

Other Adjustments

Any additional adjustments or credits applicable

Final Amount Owing/Refund

Total Tax Payable + Other Adjustments

Filing Your First GST/HST Return

Once registered, you’re required to file your GST/HST return regularly, typically quarterly or annually, depending on your business’s annual revenue.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to filing your first return:
A Guide Filing Your First GST HST Return

1. Gather Necessary Information

Before starting the filing process, gather all relevant financial records, including sales invoices, purchase receipts, and expense documents. Ensure your records are accurate and up to date to avoid discrepancies in your return.

2. Calculate GST/HST Collected and Paid

Determine the total amount of GST/HST collected on sales during the reporting period. Subtract any input tax credits (ITCs) for GST/HST paid on business expenses. The difference is the net tax owing to the CRA.

3. Complete the GST/HST Return Form

Using the GST/HST return form provided by the CRA, enter the relevant financial information, including sales revenue, GST/HST collected, and eligible ITCs. Double-check your entries to avoid errors that could delay processing.

4. File and Remit Payment

Submit your completed GST/HST return to the CRA by the deadline specified for your reporting period. If you owe GST/HST, remit payment electronically through your financial institution or by mail using a remittance voucher provided by the CRA.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While filing your first GST/HST return, be mindful of common mistakes that could lead to errors or penalties.

1. Incorrectly Calculating GST/HST

Ensure accurate calculation of GST/HST collected and paid to prevent underreporting or overpayment of taxes. Use reliable accounting software or consult a professional if needed.

2. Missing Deadlines

Missing filing deadlines can result in late filing penalties and interest charges. Mark your calendar with important due dates and set reminders to ensure the timely submission of your GST/HST returns.

3. Neglecting to Claim ITCs

Failing to claim eligible input tax credits can result in overpayment of GST/HST. Keep detailed records of business expenses and claim ITCs to reduce your tax liability.

4. Incorrect Reporting of Sales

Accurately report sales revenue and taxable supplies to avoid discrepancies in your GST/HST return. Review sales invoices and reconcile them with your financial records to ensure completeness and accuracy.

What Happens If I Don’t File My GST/HST Return on Time?

Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of responsibility, including registering, collecting, and remitting GST/HST.
Missing a filing or payment deadline can result in penalties and interest charges from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Filing and payment deadlines depend on your assigned reporting period, which could be monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Check your GST/HST return form for the due date, which is usually aligned with the deadline for filing your income tax return.
Corporations can choose to follow a different fiscal year-end for GST/HST purposes, but they must get the CRA’s consent first.

Advanced Filing Strategies and Best Practices

Now, let’s explore some advanced strategies and best practices to streamline the process and optimize your tax obligations.

1. Voluntary Registration

Even if your business doesn’t meet the $30,000 revenue threshold, consider voluntary registration for GST/HST.
Doing so allows you to claim input tax credits (ITCs) on business expenses, potentially reducing your overall tax burden.

2. Timely Record-Keeping

Maintain thorough records of all financial transactions, including sales invoices, purchase receipts, and expense documents.
Organized record-keeping not only simplifies the filing process but also facilitates accurate reporting and compliance with CRA requirements.

3. Use Accounting Software

Invest in reliable accounting software to automate GST/HST calculations and streamline the filing process. Many accounting platforms offer features specifically designed for GST/HST reporting, such as built-in tax codes and reporting templates.

4. Reconcile Regularly

Regularly reconcile your sales and expense records to ensure accuracy and consistency. Reconciliation helps identify discrepancies or missing transactions that could impact your GST/HST return.

5. Review Eligible Expenses

Review your business expenses to identify all eligible input tax credits (ITCs). Certain expenses, such as office supplies, equipment purchases, and professional fees, may qualify for ITCs, reducing your net tax owing to the CRA.

6. Consider Special Situations

Be aware of special situations that may affect your GST/HST obligations, such as zero-rated supplies, exempt supplies, and international transactions. Understanding these complexities ensures accurate reporting and compliance with tax regulations.

7. Monitor Threshold Changes

Keep abreast of any changes to the GST/HST registration threshold and adjust your filing frequency accordingly. As your business grows, you may reach the threshold for mandatory registration, necessitating more frequent filing and compliance with additional requirements.

8. Seek Professional Advice

When in doubt, seek professional advice from tax experts or accountants familiar with GST/HST regulations. A qualified advisor from Faber LLP can provide personalized guidance tailored to your business’s unique circumstances and help navigate complex tax issues.


Filing your first GST/HST return may seem daunting. But with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be a straightforward process. By understanding the basics of GST/HST, maintaining accurate records, and implementing best practices, you can ensure compliance with tax regulations and minimize your tax liability.
Remember to stay informed about changes to tax laws and regulations, seek professional assistance from Faber LLP when needed, and strive for continuous improvement in your tax filing practices. With diligence and attention to detail, you can confidently navigate the world of GST/HST and fulfill your tax obligations as a responsible business owner.

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