Bob Culmer prepares a latte — which is now PST exempt — at his coffee shop last week.

Goodbye HST, hello PST

Small businesses in Lake Cowichan dutifully taking the necessary steps to ensure their tills ring in the right taxes as of April 1

On April 1, B.C. reverted to a two-tiered tax system when the provincial sales tax returned, replacing the HST that blended the PST with the federal goods and services tax.

Almost as soon as the proposed tax was announced by then-premier Gordon Campbell, it caused a rift among residents who disagreed with it. Many were upset it was introduced without warning, and it was finally killed by a referendum in 2011, just 13 months after its introduction.

“As we committed in August 2011, we are returning to the PST with all permanent exemptions,” finance minister Michael de Jong said in a statement to the press. “Consumers will again not pay PST on purchases like food, restaurant meals, bicycles, gym memberships, movie tickets . . . nor for personal services like haircuts.”

However, small businesses in Lake Cowichan are dutifully taking the necessary steps to ensure their tills are ringing in the right taxes as of April 1. Many small business owners seem nonplussed about the change, with some saying categorically that they wish it had remained the same.

At Curves, owner Christine Calihoo says she doesn’t anticipate a sudden increase in memberships because of the tax break.

“I wish it were true, but it isn’t,” she said.

Changes for her business are a little more complicated though, because of the different products she carries. For example, her food products and memberships are exempt from the PST and therefore will drop in price, whereas the clothing items she also sells do include the seven per cent tax.

Jay deGoesbriand, who owns and runs Tiptons Gas Bar and the Cowichan Pet Emporium in Lake Cowichan, said he didn’t think it would change things for his businesses either.

“In the big scheme of things, it isn’t going to make much difference,” he told the Gazette. “Except for things like tobacco or confection.”

At the Galloping Moon Gallery, owners Bob and Jane Culmer were a little more critical of the government’s approach to having businesses revert to the two-tiered tax system.

“They’re not giving us a sign to put up that says we are a legitimate business and licensed to collect tax,” Jane Culmer explained, “and we used to have a little card that says we are exempt from paying PST, so I now have to photocopy and email or fax to all my wholesalers this letter.

“Do you know how many wholesalers we’ve got?” she said with frustration.

“A lot!”

“They sent a letter out with our new PST number, and said they’re not sending out the paper to put on the wall, they’re ‘saving money,’” added her husband, intimating that the government are trying to cut corners by eliminating some of the paperwork.

Which just goes to show, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

And it didn’t go unnoticed that the government choose April 1st as the day to make it official — no April Fool’s Day joke.

The Ministry of Finance says that 25,000 businesses have yet to register for PST, so check your receipts to make sure HST is not being charged but the applicable PST and, or GST. Go to gov.bc.ca/pst for a complete list of what is taxable under PST.

 

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