By Doug Reynolds, Executive Director, NOTO
When the GST rebate program for our guests was reinstated, many of us breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the new program contains a number of changes that has led to a significant number of guests having their rebate applications rejected. This new program has a different set of rules and even a new name. As a result, the people who are checking the applications are looking for certain things to prove that the application qualifies under this new program.
The first major change that everybody should know about by now is that applications can no longer be submitted to duty free shops. If you stop at a duty free shop, you will probably be told (quite correctly) that the Visitor Rebate Program has been cancelled. You may even be told this by GST officials themselves, since they may believe that you are mistakenly trying to qualify under the old program.
The new Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program is the replacement program. It provides a rebate of half the GST amount on a qualifying tour package that includes accommodation and at least one eligible service.
Many of the packages offered in our industry meet this definition, but it is essential that the documentation that is included with the application demonstrates that the package does indeed qualify.
By far the biggest stumbling block has been around what qualifies as an “eligible service” in this program. Many things, such as meals or boat and motor rentals that are included in packages do not qualify. Things that clearly do qualify as services include “guide or interpreter services” and transportation, such as flights, train transportation or boat shuttles to remote lodges.
When a guest applies for the rebate, it is important that the bill or other documentation clearly demonstrate that at least one such “eligible service” was included at a single package price. You should note that non-eligible services like meals and boat rentals can still be included in the package and qualify for the rebate; they just can’t be counted as services toward the definition of a “qualifying package”.
Including a note on your bill that says something like “One week outdoor adventure package including deluxe cabin, boat and motor rental, float plane flight from our base...” and showing a final total package price will help demonstrate that your package qualifies for the program. Note that it is the combination of “deluxe cabin” and “float plane flight” that make this a “qualifying package”.
Although there has been quite a lot of confusion and difficulty with this new program, almost all of the problems have been due to the information submitted not making it clear that the package meets all of the requirements. The people processing these applications are generally unfamiliar with our industry, and many of the applications that they process are for things like conventions and bus tours, which are what this program was really designed around.
We have found that many of the packages offered by our industry qualify for this new program and the applications go through without a hitch if the documentation is clear. It is certainly not as clear and easy as the old program, and we will continue to work with officials in the program to improve the information provided to the industry and to further refine the program.
In the meantime, please contact the NOTO office if you have questions or concerns about whether your package qualifies for the rebate and whether your bills and other documentation meet the program requirements
This article was taken from pages 12 & 13 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Winter 2007 Issue