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HST Meaning: What Does HST Mean, How to Apply, and More

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Questions around HST in Canada are some of the most commonly received here at Accountor CPA. Navigating the HST meaning, when to register for HST as a business, and how to apply for an HST number can be confusing and intimidating.

Only some provinces in Canada use HST and each province uses its own unique set of regulations and rules around collection, credits, and remittances. If you are new to a province or recently opened your own business, it’s important that you follow the correct set of rules when it comes to HST.

Get answers to all your HST questions with Accountor CPA!

HST Definition: What Does HST Mean?

HST stands for Harmonized Sales Tax. This is a consumer tax that combines the Canadian federal goods and services tax (GST) with provincial sales tax (PST). In provinces that use HST, it is collected by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) which then remits the appropriate amount back to the provinces.

The HST system in Canada was designed to help businesses simplify their tax collection and government remittance with only one rate. It helps to minimize administrative processes, but also comes with tax credits and deductions that can lead to more complex administration. On the other hand, critics of the HST system in Canada claim that it shifts the tax burden away from businesses and onto consumers.

HST was first introduced in Atlantic Canada in 1997 and has not been fully adopted by all provinces and territories. Most provinces and territories in Canada still use a version of the GST/PST system.

Currently, five provinces in Canada use HST: Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland.


Taxes Charged


New Brunswick

HST 15%

Adopted in 1997.

Newfoundland & Labrador

HST 15%

Adopted in 1997. As of July 1, 2016, the HST rate increased from 13% to 15%.

Prince Edward Island

HST 15%

Adopted in 2013. As of Oct. 1, 2016, the HST rate increased to 15%.

Nova Scotia

HST 15%

Adopted in 1997. 


HST 13%

Adopted July 1, 2010.

British Columbia

GST 5%

PST 7%

As of April 1, 2013.


GST 5%

RST 7%

The provincial sales tax is known as retail sales tax (RST).


GST 5%

PST 6%



GST 5%

QST 9.975%

As of January 1, 2013.

Northwest Territories

GST 5%

 Do not charge provincial tax.


GST 5%

 Do not charge provincial tax.


GST 5%

 Do not charge provincial tax.


GST 5%

 Do not charge provincial tax.

When Did HST Start in Ontario?

HST was launched in Ontario on July 1, 2010. It consists of a 5% federal portion and 8% provincial portion, and is listed as the total 13% HST on invoices and receipts.The HST system in Ontario seeks to reduce administrative overhead for businesses, generally speaking, as a way to lower overall business costs and pass these savings onto the consumer.

Ontario has a number of HST exemptions and point-of-sale rebates, including on items and services such as:

  • Some health, medical, and dental services
  • Child care
  • Tutoring
  • Qualifying food and beverages
  • Prescription drugs
  • Financial services
  • Children’s clothing and footwear
  • Books and newspapers
  • Car seats
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Air travel originating in Ontario and terminating in the U.S.

Businesses are responsible for adhering to the Ontario HST exemption rules when they charge their customers.

When Did HST Start (and End) in BC?

British Columbia presents a unique case for HST adoption in Canada. On July 1 2010, British Columbia adopted an HST rate of 12%, with 5% being the federal portion and 7% being the provincial portion.

Opposition to HST in British Columbia lead to a provincial referendum by mail-in ballot. The results were 54.73% in favour of ending HST in BC, leading to its reversal.

On April 1, 2013, British Columbia ended their HST system and reverted back to 5% GST and 7% PST separately.

Provinces Without HST

As of 2021, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Manitoba have a provincial tax system and a federal tax system in place. apply the provincial system in addition to the separate federal sales tax.

Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon do not have any provincial sales taxes and only charge federal GST on applicable goods and services.

When to Register for HST

How do you know when your business needs to register for an HST number?

If your business has sold over $30 000 worth of goods or services in the past four consecutive quarters, you must request an HST account for your business. A business that sells less than $30 000 worth of goods or services in this time frame is classified as a small supplier, and legally does not need to charge or remit HST.

Some small suppliers opt to voluntarily register for an HST number because they are then able to claim input tax credits on goods and services they purchase for running their business. If you do not register for HST, you are not able to claim these credits on your own purchases when you file your taxes.

Once you register for an HST number, you must begin collecting tax, reporting it, and remitting it to the government based on your assigned period (monthly, quarterly, or annually). You must charge HST on all goods and services sold in the provinces that have adopted HST (except those goods and services that are exempt).

If you need help filing your HST return, the team at Accountor CPA can help.

How to Apply for an HST Number

You can apply for an HST number by mail, by telephone, or online directly with the CRA. An HST number is part of a business number (BN). If you do not already have a business number when you apply for an HST number, one will be provided for you.

Applying for an HST number is simple. All you need is:

  • The effective date of registration (usually the date you stop qualifying as a small supplier)
  • Your fiscal year for HST purposes
  • Total annual revenue
  • Basic business information

When you apply online, your HST number will be provided to you immediately for you to begin use.

Apply for an HST Number and More with Accountor CPA

Looking for more information about how HST applies to your business or how to register for your number? The team of tax experts at Accountor CPA can help.

We offer HST services to small businesses, SMEs, self-employed individuals, and large corporations across Canada. We are dedicated to helping you succeed with our year-round tax planning strategies.

Learn more about the input tax credits and deductions you and your business may be eligible for. Contact us today for a free consultation for HST services.

The information provided on the page is intended to provide general information. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Accountor Inc. assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein. Moreover, the hyperlinks in this article may redirect to external websites not administered by Accountor Inc. The company cannot be held liable for the content of external websites or any damages caused by their use.

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