If you’re selling digital services and products to customers in British Columbia, then you might be liable for the region’s Provincial Sales Tax (PST). This guide covers two very important parts of the system:
- Registering for the tax, and then
- Filing tax returns on time.
We’ve scoured the government of British Columbia’s website to provide you with all the necessary information about PST for international businesses in one place.
How to register for PST in British Columbia
British Columbia offers an online PST registration for all businesses that aren’t physically located in the province. Though there’s also the option to register via mail or fax, we recommend the online version.
The full process is two steps. First you must register to collect PST using the online portal, eTaxBC. Then you must “enroll for access” to an ongoing eTaxBC account, which is where you’ll file and pay your tax returns. (More on that later!)
1. Register your business for PST
If you have all the information prepared ahead of time, the registration process will take approximately 15 to 25 minutes.
Here’s what you should have handy before you start:
- Your Canadian federal business number (BN), if you have one. If you don't have one yet, this process will create one for you!
- If you do already have a BN, a recent copy of a GST return to verify information about your business
- Your passport or other government issued ID
- The amount of your total annual national (Canadian) sales, or the estimated amount if you have been in business less than 12 months
- The amount of your anticipated monthly taxable sales/leases
The 9-step process is mostly straightforward, but there is an extra step for foreign businesses: you must fill out a “country registration questionnaire.”
At step 3, when you select the type of ownership of your business, the bottom of the page will ask if you’re a Foreign Company. When you select ‘Yes’, a link will appear to the questionnaire:
The questionnaire itself is short and simple. Here are the questions so you can prepare your answers ahead of time:
Once completed, you’ll be able to navigate through the rest of the process and click Submit!
Your registration can take up to 21 business days to be processed.
Once it’s approved, you’ll receive a British Columbia PST number, which will be 11 characters long and is in this format: PST-1234-5678. This is a unique identifier they’ll use to identify you in the system, and which you’ll need to put on invoices, etc.
You’ll also receive a Business Number (BN), a national identifier issued by the Canada Revenue Agency. You’ll use this for the next step in the PST process.
2. Enroll for access to eTaxBC
As we mentioned above, your eTaxBC account is where you’ll actually manage your tax compliance for British Columbia, so it’s crucial to follow through and set this up.
To enroll for access, you can head to this page and click ‘Create a New Enrolment’. You’ll provide your BN, and select the account type ‘Provincial Sales Tax’. Then you’ll also provide your PST number.
After you complete this process, an email will be sent to you to confirm your enrollment. When you log on for the first time, a one-time use access code will be sent to the email address that you provided. You should receive your access code within 2 minutes, but it could take up to 30 minutes.
If you don’t receive an access code, you can call the BC tax agency toll-free at 1-877-388-4440 (option 1).
How to file PST returns in British Columbia
First things first, you must remit taxes in Canadian Dollars (CAD)! Be sure to convert any foreign currency before filing.
When to file and pay
When you register for PST, they’ll assign you an ongoing reporting period that starts the first day of the month you apply to register.
Reporting intervals are assigned according to how much PST you collect per year:
- Over $12,000 = Monthly only
- Over $6,000 up to $12,000 = Monthly or quarterly
- Over $3,000 up to $6,000 = Quarterly or semi-annual
- $3,000 or less = Quarterly, semi-annual or annual
Your completed tax return and payment must be received on or before the last day of the month following the end of the reporting period.
Note: You must still file every quarter even if you made no sales in British Columbia! This is typically called a “Nil declaration” and it follows the exact same process as a normal return. (Just a little less data entry 😉)
How to file
Before you get started, you should collect all the information about your taxable sales in British Columbia during the previous quarter. The tax website suggests having these pieces ready:
- total sales and income
- total purchases and expenses
Then you can file the return online in eTaxBC.
- Log on to your eTaxBC account
- Select the appropriate account
- Select ‘File Return’ for the period you wish to file. If you don’t see the period, select View Periods to show all periods
- Complete the return form. If you didn’t collect any PST, select ‘Yes’ beside ‘Is this a Nil return?’
If you need more in-depth guidance during the filing process, check out BC’s Guide to completing the PST return.
How to pay
As expected, you must pay in CAD and can do so directly in your eTaxBC account. However, these payments can only be made through Canadian Financial Institutions. Credit cards are not accepted.
If you don’t have a bank account in Canada, here are your options:
- Use separate bill payment services through your own bank. Find the correct name and account numbers for the transfer here.
- Send an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or wire transfer.*
- Once you’ve made the transfer, follow special instructions to validate your payment with the BC tax agency. This makes sure your payment is matched to your business account!
If you have any issues with the filing and payment process, feel free to contact the eTaxBC help desk at CTBTaxQuestions@gov.bc.ca
What to do in between registering and filing?
Well, you must comply with all the rules for British Columbia PST! That means charging 7% PST on all B2C sales in the country, among other things.
For further reading that will help you stay compliant and successful as a remote seller, check out our Business Guide to GST in British Columbia.
Note: At Quaderno we love providing helpful information and best practices about taxes, but we are not certified tax advisors. For further help, or if you are ever in doubt, please consult a professional tax advisor or the Tax Agency.