September 20 2010 by Ellen Roseman
It’s still early days for Ontario’s harmonized sales tax, which came into effect on July 1. But many people feel it’s being applied inconsistently or unfairly.
Sharon reads electronic books. She was dismayed to find she was charged 13 per cent HST on ebooks purchased from Kobo, an online store owned by Indigo Books, while she’d pay only the 5 per cent GST on books sold at a regular bookstore.
Slobodan bought a litre of milk at a convenience store in Niagara Falls and was charged 45 cents HST on the $3.39 purchase. Since when is food taxed in this province, he asks? And besides, the calculation is off by 1 cent (13 per cent of $3.39 is 44 cents).
George complains of problems using discount coupons at restaurants. He says restaurants should charge tax only on the net amount after deducting any discounts, but many calculate tax on the gross amount before the discount. The result is inflated taxes being paid unnecessarily. In fact, the rules aren’t quite as clear-cut, if you read the CRA’s guide.
Frank asks why some restaurants still charge 15 per cent tax on liquor. Didn’t the Ontario government remove the liquor tax and substitute the 13 per cent HST? Yes, it did, while promising to recover the taxes lost through higher markups at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores.
Jim and Anita can’t understand why their hydro bills — already high enough with the added HST for actual use — also have HST added to the delivery, regulatory charges and debt retirement charge. “For senior citizens on fixed incomes, these added costs are too much. How do low income families manage this hardship?”
Ontarians may grumble, but in British Columbia, they’re rallying to fight HST. I’d like to hear other examples of HST applied unfairly or inconsistently.