How the rebate program works
The visitors rebate tax program is administered through the Canada Revenue Agency. According to media relations agent Beatrice Fenelon, all major cities have an official tax rebate office tourists can visit for a refund. Canadian duty-free stores at airports and border crossings also offer instant rebate services. All you need are your receipts.
There are also private refund companies that may offer to file a rebate application on your behalf for a fee, such as the National Tax Refund office in Toronto's Eaton Centre, but which are not associated with the CRA.
If you opt to claim your rebate after you return home, you simply have to fill out a form and send it in with the receipts of the items you purchased. Many hotels and duty-free gift shops have the forms, but you can also find them online. It typically takes four to six weeks to receive your money if you go the mail route.
Eligible goods include most purchases that you intend to take home with you. So, meals and services such as dry cleaning aren't eligible. Neither are car rentals, entertainment expenses (such as movie tickets or ski lift tickets), alcohol and tobacco products.
You also can't claim a tax rebate on small items. According to the Fenelon, "each receipt has to be over $50 and the total of the receipts has to be $200."
Here are some other tips to keep in mind when trying to clam a GST refund:
Tour packages bought through an agent or otherwise are eligible for a rebate equal to half the tax amount on the receipt. You can also claim taxes paid for short-term accommodations for fewer than 30 days, be it a hotel room or a camping spot, provided you paid for less than one month of continuous occupancy and you have a receipt that shows the number of nights for which you paid.
Keep in mind that if you haven't spent at least $200 in combined accommodation and goods, you aren't eligible for a rebate. So, have the receipts for your goods stamped as proof of export and use them next time you visit.
Before you leave
For more information, check out the CRA's information on GST refunds for visitors.
Melanie Chambers is a freelance
writer based in London, Ont.
|-- Posted: April 26, 2006