If you’re self-employed, freelance, or run any kind of business in Canada, you’ve probably heard that you have to register for the HST/GST once you make more than $30,000.

But what exactly does that mean, what income counts toward the limit, and how do you do it?

In this, part one of a two-part Tip about the GST/HST, all your questions of ‘When and How’ will be answered.

When do you have to register?

As most people who are self-employed, freelance, or running a business in Canada, there is an income limit below which you don’t have to be registered for the GST/HST. That limit, known as the Small Supplier Threshold, is $30,000 per year (specifically: in four consecutive calendar quarters). If your revenue falls below this level you are considered to be a ‘small supplier’ and therefore not obliged to register.

Once you cross the Small Supplier Threshold you must get a GST/HST number and start charging your customers and clients.

Please note that when we say four consecutive calendar quarters, that doesn’t mean they all have to fall within the same calendar year. For example, if you make a major $15,000 sale in December and another $15,000 in January, you have just crossed the threshold. December and January fall within consecutive calendar quarters (fourth quarter of one year, and the first quarter of the subsequent year), so it’s time to register.

What counts toward the limit:

• Your gross income (meaning, before deducting business expenses) from freelance or self-employment.

What doesn’t count:

• Income that isn’t from self-employment (i.e., salary from a job, investment income, or social support);

• Grants that do not require you to create a work and give it back to the grantor;

• Revenue from sales that are ‘exempt supplies,’ i.e not subject to GST/HST, such as financial services or music lessons.

Once you cross the threshold, it is your responsibility to register voluntarily. The government won’t send you a notice or a warning – not right away, at least.

If it’s time (or past time) for you to register for the GST/HST, the good news is that it’s easy to do. You can call CRA’s business inquiries line at 1-800-959-5525 and do it in five minutes on the phone. You’ll actually get your GST/HST number on the spot.

Just be ready when you call to tell the agent what kind of business you do, a ballpark idea of how much you expect to bill annually, and how often you would like to file a GST/HST return (we generally advise clients to file annually, for simplicity’s sake).

We have just said that the government doesn’t send you a warning, which is why the onus is on you to register. The more accurate thing to say is that the government doesn’t come after you right away. If they eventually notice that you’re unregistered when you should be registered – and this happens a lot – the consequences can be very expensive.

Learn what to do if you’re late registering for the GST/HST.


Did you know? Personal Tax Advisors will calculate and file your GST or HST return for free.

Read more:

GST/HST Explained in One Sentence

Why You Should Register For The GST/HST (Even If You Don’t Have To)

How to Register for the GST or HST

Avoid this expensive error: Register for HST before CRA asks.