British Columbia

Costco ready for court fight with Victoria

Retail giant Costco is taking legal action to stop the provincial government from getting names of B.C. residents who have shopped at eight of its stores in Alberta.

Retail giant Costco is taking legal action to stop the provincial government from getting names of B.C. residents who have shopped at eight of its stores in Alberta.



The battle has been brewing for more than two years.

The B.C. government first sought Costco's sales records back in October 2003. It wants the names and addresses of those who made made purchases as far back as 1998 without paying provincial sales tax in B.C.

Alberta has no sales tax. And B.C. has said it's losing a total of $16 million a year in revenue on shoppers going across the border.

Costco says it's never encountered an action like this anywhere else in Canada. And the company is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to declare that the request from the provincial government is inappropriate and a violation of privacy laws.

"The element that is the most important in all of this is that we understand that consumer privacy and consumer information is sacred and must be protected," said company spokesperson Ron Damiani.

Damiani says Costco is concerned this may be the thin edge of the wedge. He wonders whether the B.C. government will also seek credit card records of consumers who have crossed provincial borders to shop.

Minister taking second look

Revenue Minister Rick Thorpe says his department will review its efforts to collect sales tax from cross-border shoppers buying high-priced items in Alberta.

"What I have asked my deputy and senior staff to review is our whole approach to cross-border tax administration, tax fairness and how we go about doing that," he told reporters in Victoria.

"Again my responsibility is to British Columbia and British Columbians to ensure that our tax code is administered in a fair and equitable manner."

Thorpe says he expects his staff to report back to him next week.

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