Navigating the Maze of Late HST Returns: What the CRA Does


Running a business comes with its fair share of responsibilities, one of which is filing your taxes accurately and on time. In Canada, the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is a crucial part of your financial obligations as a business owner. Failing to file your HST return by the due date can lead to various consequences. In this blog post, we will explore what happens when you file a late HST return and what the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does in response.

Understanding HST

Before diving into the consequences of late HST returns, let’s briefly review what HST is. The Harmonized Sales Tax is a consumption tax in Canada that combines the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) into one tax. The rate of HST varies by province but is typically 13% or 15% of the purchase price of most goods and services.

Filing Your HST Return on Time

Businesses that are registered for HST are required to file regular HST returns. The frequency of filing depends on your business’s annual taxable supplies. It can range from quarterly to annually. It is crucial to understand your filing frequency to avoid late filings.

Consequences of Late HST Returns

  1. Interest and Penalties: The CRA takes late filings seriously. If you miss the due date for filing your HST return, you will be subject to interest charges on any outstanding amounts owed. Additionally, penalties may be assessed based on the number of times you’ve filed late in the past.
  2. Loss of Input Tax Credits: Input Tax Credits (ITCs) allow businesses to recover the HST they have paid on eligible expenses. If you consistently file late HST returns, the CRA may deny your ITC claims, which can significantly impact your bottom line.
  3. Audit and Scrutiny: Late filings can trigger an audit or increased scrutiny from the CRA. This means that the agency will closely examine your financial records and tax filings, potentially leading to additional penalties and assessments if discrepancies are found.
  4. Collections and Legal Action: If you continue to neglect your HST obligations, the CRA can take legal action to collect the outstanding amounts. This may involve wage garnishments, freezing bank accounts, or even seizing assets.

What the CRA Does

The Canada Revenue Agency has several mechanisms in place to deal with late HST returns:

  1. Late-Filing Penalties: The CRA imposes a late-filing penalty, which is calculated as a percentage of the outstanding balance for each month the return is late, up to a maximum of 12 months.
  2. Interest Charges: Interest is charged on any overdue amounts, including both the HST owed and any late-filing penalties.
  3. Assessments and Adjustments: If the CRA determines that you have made errors on your HST returns, they can issue assessments and adjustments. You will be required to pay any additional taxes owed.
  4. Collections: The CRA has the authority to use collection measures, as mentioned earlier, to recover outstanding HST amounts.
  5. Education and Support: In some cases, the CRA may offer education and support to help businesses better understand their tax obligations and encourage compliance.


Filing your HST return on time is not just a legal requirement; it’s also essential for the financial health of your business. Late HST returns can lead to a range of consequences, including penalties, interest charges, and even legal action. To avoid these issues, it’s crucial to stay informed about your filing obligations, keep accurate records, and seek professional assistance if needed. Remember that the CRA is committed to ensuring tax compliance, and late HST returns are not taken lightly.

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