Over the weekend I visited a new comic shop and picked up a few books. When I got home and checked my receipts I noticed I was charged the full HST amount. As usual my first reaction was to be incensed over their lack of knowledge as a retail store in Canada selling books. It was a sale event and perhaps the cashier didn’t know what was what, but it’s a problem. So here’s my educational moment.

First of all I blame this lack of knowledge on the industry’s desire to call graphic novels, trade paperbacks, collected editions, periodicals, and every other format a graphic narrative appears in to be a “comic book”. Using that criteria the consumer would pay the full HST amount. Since we know there is a very clear distinction, then different rules apply.

The Canadian Revenue Agency has a wonderful document available with clear information and even clearer examples. Read that here, or grab the PDF. Books are charged 5%, periodicals full HST. It’s considered a provincial tax rebate to the consumer at the point of sale, and is only in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Albert doesn’t have provincial sales tax.

Let’s apply this to comics since this is a comic site. Any comic “book” (softcover or hardcover) only has the 5% tax applied to it. Any periodical (your monthly comics) has the full HST applied. There seems to be wiggle room for periodicals with less than 5% of total space used for advertising. As well periodicals purchased by subscription only pay the 5% tax but that would be a stretch to apply it to a pull list, unless you paid up front.

Unfortunately there’s no distinction between new and used books and periodicals so the same tax rules apply to back issues.

For those of you know have paid too much tax, take note: you can get that money back as long as it’s more than $2. Get the form here. If your local comic shop is charging the wrong tax amount I suggest printing off the PDF above and giving it to the owner.