HST ended this week – what does it mean for Elk Valley residents?

For Elk Valley residents, now is the time to get your hair cut, finally buy that new bike, and take someone out for dinner.

For Elk Valley residents, now is the time to get your hair cut, finally buy that new bike you’ve been eyeing up, and take someone out for dinner.

But for tourists coming into town, renting a room for the night, or a car to get here, might cost them a bit more.

These everyday transactions are among the many routine costs of living and working in B.C. that have changed – some becoming cheaper and others not – as a result of Monday’s switch-over from the Harmonized Sales Tax (the HST) to the Provincial Sales Tax (the PST).

Businesses and consumers are both finding it all quite confusing, especially since everyone was just getting used to the HST, introduced just three years ago.

It is not just that the amount you pay for many things will change, it’s that the cost of many, many more goods or services likely won’t budge either up or down.

For more routine purchases, the ministry has a useful web link that shows the tax implications before, during and after the three-year period when the HST was in force. It is long and crowded with small print, but is well-organized with specific goods or services grouped under headings like “around the house” or “motorized vehicles”. (To find the site, go to www.gov.bc.ca/pst and click on What’s Taxable & What’s Not.) For the most part, transactions under the new tax will be treated precisely the same as under the pre-HST version of the PST. But it’s worth checking and making sure you know what you should be paying, especially during the transition when businesses are confused and mistakes can be made, either in the buyer’s favour or not.

Most services like personal trainers, car repairs or handymen; most memberships and ticket prices, as well as a lot of sports gear, restaurant meals, books and magazines, food and dietary supplements, non-alcoholic beverages, safety equipment like child car seats and some boating gear, used clothing and more, have been subject to HST for three years, so they should now be seven-per-cent cheaper.

In 2011, an independent panel estimated that B.C.’s HST cost the average family just under a dollar a day. So with nearly all exemptions and rates back to almost where they were, it is reasonable to assume that is what the average family will now save.

But it’s certainly not all great news for families.

The HST came with a provincial rebate of up to $230 a year per family member – in the old/new PST era this drops to $75 a year per tax filer.

That is a big difference, especially for families with kids, who will no longer be a factor in determining the size of the rebate.