Ont. HST cheques are in the mail

Ontario residents will receive their first of three HST rebate cheques this week even though the 13 per cent tax doesn't begin until July 1.

The first of three HST rebate cheques will arrive Thursday from the Ontario government in a bid to help ease the transition to the new harmonized sales tax, which begins on July 1.

Families making less than $160,000 a year will receive $330 this month, and $335 in December and again in June 2011, for a total of $1,000.

Fitness enthusiasts exercise in protest of the HST at Queen's Park in Toronto, on May 19. The event was in protest of the harmonized tax, which will be added to fitness and sports programs. ((Maria Babbage/Canadian Press))

Individuals making under $80,000 will get three cheques worth $100, for a total of $300.

The rebates will be sent by mail, or go directly into an individual's bank account, depending on how that person filed his or her tax return.

Revenue Canada will issue the HST rebates to 6.6 million Ontario residents this week.

The rebates will total $4 billion, money Premier Dalton McGuinty says Ontario received from the federal government to switch to the 13 per cent HST.

Opposition leader Tim Hudak said McGuinty is trying to bribe taxpayers with their own money, and said the rebates will end next year, but the HST will continue.

British Columbia is also switching to the HST on July 1, but the province won't be sending out rebate cheques like Ontario. B.C. has converted the quarterly GST credit into a combined GST/HST credit to be called the HSTC credit.

With files from The Canadian Press