File HST Returns Even for Zero Sales

After you register for an HST number when setting up your business, you are required by law to send in your remittances even if you have zero sales.

When you start a business, unless you are expecting sales right away, or under $30,000 in sales for the first year, you do not need to register your business to collect HST. When you do decide to register, here’s a story you should know about.

A recent client of mine had registered their business two years ago with the intention of proactively looking for business. This client had not had any sales in those two years. However, when they called CRA to register for HST, the start date was backdated instead of starting¬†when he called. We are uncertain why. This client was then responsible to file returns for the previous reporting periods. Because they didn’t know this, CRA assessed him for what they believe they owed them. They received a bill in the mail they were expected to pay. When they finally realized they had to file all the returns backdated, they filed all of the zero returns so they could claim HST on expenses they had incurred for the startup. Because they hadn’t filed previously, CRA took their credit and applied it to the outstanding amount. When they called asking why they owed money on a zero sales return, CRA said it was because of the penalties for not filing his returns!

Lessons learned?

  1. Always file your HST returns, even if there are no sales!
  2. When calling to set up an HST account number, ensure they date the paperwork for the date you are applying. Keep an eye on the mail and check for confirmation of the reports due.
  3. Although it does look professional when you charge HST, unless you are over the $30,000 mark in revenues there is no point in registering before you are ready unless you want to claim HST for expenses.