B.C. businesses can now start registering for the upcoming return of the provincial sales tax, but all the details of the changeover from the harmonized sales tax have yet to be released by the provincial government.

Secretary of State for Small Business Naomi Yamamoto says 100,000 businesses need to register, and many will be collecting the tax for the first time.

"By the time the transition is complete on April 1 of this year, 2013, about 30,000 new businesses in B.C. will have started up under the HST regime. In other words, they have never experienced the PST."

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B.C.'s Finance Ministry is offering online interactive seminars to businesses to provide information on transitioning to the new PST. The topics include general PST application, registration and the new online services option, called eTaxBC. (B.C. Government)

A new version of the old combination of the PST and the federal goods and services tax will replace the HST on April 1.

The PST taxation rate will be seven per cent on most goods and services bought and sold in B.C., but alcohol, accommodation, and the sale of some vehicles, boats and planes will be taxed at higher rates.

The GST taxation rate will be five per cent, where it applies.

The B.C. government has confirmed all of the previously-exempt items — like groceries and children's clothing — will remain exempt under the new tax, but says the tax has been substantially updated.

"The new PST is being implemented under a more modern and streamlined Provincial Sales Tax Act that is, for technical taxation legislation, clearer, easier to understand and comply with, easier to administer, and which better reflects modern technology and business practices," the government website states.

Yamamoto says the province wants to make the transition as easy as possible, so business owners will be able to register online or request a one-on-one consultation with a ministry tax official.

"The old legislation and regulations were originally introduced over 60 years ago, in 1948. They had been amended, expanded and changed many times and did not keep pace with rapidly changing technology and business practices."

Details still being worked out

The Finance Ministry confirmed that final details of the tax, amendments and supporting legislation still need to be hammered out when the legislature resumes in the spring.

NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston says the Finance Ministry is failing to meet its own deadlines.

"What Finance Minister [Kevin] Falcon committed to back in May of last year was that everything would be in place by October — the legislation and all the exemptions — so that, in his words, we could go out to the business community with them knowing exactly what the legislation and all exemptions under the regulations were," Ralston said.

"They didn't bring the legislature back in the fall, they haven't done the legislation."

Officials at the B.C. Ministry of Finance say they never promised to have all legislation in place by October 2012.

A statement on the PST information website says: "While additional transitional and consequential amendments will be made before the PST is re-implemented on April 1, 2013, the province intends to publicly release a final proposed version of the Act this fall to support business outreach and awareness.

"Further work on the regulations to fully establish the exemptions under the Act will continue over the coming months, after considering the input received from business to ensure clarity."

The government committed to scrapping the HST and returning to the PST after a provincewide referendum last year rejected the new tax. 

The government has estimated eliminating the HST and reinstating the PST will cost the province more than $3 billion.