Saskatoon

Saskatchewan hasn't seen a cent in PST from Amazon.ca

The government of Saskatchewan does not receive provincial sales tax from retail giant Amazon.ca, even though the province's most recent budget implemented changes in legislation that require the retailer to collect and remit six per cent of each purchase imported by consumers.

Despite legislation changes, Amazon.ca still not collecting PST or remitting taxes

Other online retailers, like Ikea, Walmart and Dell, collect and remit PST to the government of Saskatchewan when goods are shipped from out-of-province. (Reuters)

The government of Saskatchewan does not receive provincial sales tax from retail giant Amazon.ca, even though the province's most recent budget implemented changes in legislation that require the retailer to collect and remit six per cent of each purchase imported by consumers.

The Ministry of Finance is "working very hard" to have Amazon.ca licensed to begin collecting and remitting PST, says Brent Hebert, assistant deputy minister for the revenue division.

The ministry has a team devoted to identifying online retailers that sell to Saskatchewan-based customers. Prior to the required PST remittance by online retailers, the team had reached out to Amazon.ca and asked the company to voluntarily comply.

When the province's rules changed, Amazon.ca officials were again notified.

But the company never complied.

Other online retailers, like Ikea, Walmart and Dell, collect and remit PST to the government of Saskatchewan when goods are shipped from out-of-province, Hebert confirmed.

"We can estimate the tax they're [Amazon] owing and attempt to legally establish that and pursue it from them given their assets in Ontario," said Hebert, adding, "We hope that it doesn't go there."

Amazon could not be reached for comment on this story.

Customers have to pay up

While Amazon.ca evades the government and its order to charge PST and pay up, the onus is on consumers to report their purchases.

"Where an online retailer chooses not to be licensed, in our act, it's the responsibility of the person importing the goods into the province to assess the tax," said Hebert.

In 2015-16, Saskatchewan received $1.3 billion fom PST remittance.

Hebert was unable to predict the possible PST remittance Saskatchewan might receive from Amazon if it starts to comply with the new legislation.

He reports the province receives approximately $1.8 million from importing consumers who self-assess.

Other Canadian provinces do not divulge information on specific taxpayers, but Amazon lists percentages on its website for sales tax it collects for every province, but Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Amazon.com, the retailer's company in the United States, already collects and remits sales tax through the federal government, which then transfers six per cent PST to Saskatchewan.

Traditional brick and mortar stores in Saskatchewan have long had to collect and remit PST. Before the 2017 budget, collection and remittance of PST was optional for online, out-of-province merchants. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

No back-pay to government

There will be a gap between whenever  Amazon.ca complies — if it does at all — and the time the provincial government brought in rules making remittance of PST mandatory.

The government will not go after the potential PST lost during that time.

The government expects the implementation of PST collection and remittance to take some time. Amazon.ca would be required to reconfigure its online collection system and then implement the measure.

'Disappointing' says local vendor

Mackenzie Firby, owner of Two Fifty Two Boutique, calls Amazon.ca's PST non-compliance 'disappointing.' (Bridget Yard/CBC News)
Many people shop online to find deals, and pay less for goods they may have access to at brick and mortar stores, complicating the already-difficult task of running a small local retail store in Saskatchewan.

"Advertising is costly, trying to get new people through the door," said Mackenzie Firby, owner of Two Fifty Two Boutique in Saskatoon.

"We're lucky to have some loyal customers."

While the majority of Firby's customers are in-store shoppers, she does cater to a small online market, and collects PST through a third-party service.

In-store, she makes allowances for PST and remits at the end of the year.

"If I don't keep any eye on it and set aside some money each week, it can be a big chunk I have to pay back," she said.

Kirby calls Amazon.ca's non-action "disappointing."

"I feel like it's something they should be doing as well," she said, adding "It helps us all out, right? It just brings more money into the province."


With files from Jennifer Quesnel

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