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BC returns to 'better-stupid' PST next April: finance minister

VICTORIA - B.C.'s finance minister introduced a new-and-improved provincial sales tax Monday to replace the harmonized tax that was defeated in last year's fractious referendum, but he acknowledged he's still not a fan.

Kevin Falcon once called the PST a stupid tax, and when asked if this version is an improvement, he responded: "Yes. It's better-stupid."

Taxpayers in British Columbia will officially begin paying the old provincial sales tax in addition to the goods and services tax starting April 1 next year.

Falcon said the return to the PST brings back all the old exemptions, meaning consumers will no longer pay seven per cent tax on restaurant meals, gym memberships, bicycles, movie tickets and haircuts.

"All the familiar exemptions will be back, bicycles, books and magazines, children's clothing and footwear, food and dietary supplements, non-alcoholic beverages, used clothing," he said. "All of the old exemptions will continue to be in place."

Falcon said the full list of PST exemptions will be included in regulations this fall. He said the government will conduct business outreach seminars this fall to help businesses familiarize themselves with the return to the PST.

Falcon said the major improvement to the new PST is it provides online access for businesses, which makes it easier to register and update accounts.

"We've tried to improve it and update it, so it's going to be a lot better, and it is for small business in particular to manage and deal with," Falcon said. "We've made sure it's all online, so that we've got a better PST, but I would argue it's never going to be as good as our previous tax."

Opposition New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston said the government is still taking too long to unwind the HST. He said the government is taking 19 months to return to the PST, while it took 11 months to introduce the HST.

Ralston said he's concerned that the Liberals are saying "trust us" when it comes to ensuring the former PST tax exemptions are part of the new PST law.

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