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Learn about tobacco taxes in Ontario, including the types of tobacco products and stamps and who needs to register, report and pay tobacco tax.
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This overview provides general information on Ontario's tobacco tax rules; it should not be considered as a substitute for the Tobacco Tax Act and Regulations.
The Ontario Ministry of Finance is responsible for administering the Tobacco Tax Act (the Act).
Generally, Ontario imposes a direct tax on tobacco products which is payable by consumers. This means that persons who purchase or receive delivery of tobacco products for their consumption (or for someone else at their expense) are responsible for paying the tobacco tax.
Tobacco products include:
- fine cut tobacco
- other tobacco products (e.g., pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco).
Tobacco tax rates
As of 12:01 a.m., March 29, 2018, the current tax rates are:
- 18.475¢ per cigarette
- 18.475¢ per gram or part gram of tobacco product other than cigarettes and cigars
- 56.6 per cent of the taxable price of a cigar.
Tobacco tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes equals $3.70, on a pack of 25 cigarettes equals $4.62 and on a carton of 200 cigarettes equals $36.95.
Who pays tobacco tax?
All consumers of tobacco products in Ontario must pay the tax, except:
- certain members of the Diplomatic Corps who buy tobacco products for their own personal and exclusive use.
- First Nations individuals who qualify as Indians under the Indian Act (Canada) and who buy allocation cigarettes and other tobacco products from reserve retailers for their own personal and exclusive use.
Ontario's First Nations Cigarette Allocation System
Under Ontario's First Nations Cigarette Allocation System, certain wholesalers may be authorized by the ministry to sell limited quantities of unmarked cigarettes and fine cut tobacco to authorized reserve retailers, for sale to First Nations.
Cigar Sales on First Nations Reserves
Learn more about the Ministry of Finance's approach for wholesalers and retailers who sell cigars on First Nations reserves.
How does Ontario collect tobacco tax?
Consumers pay tobacco tax when they purchase tobacco products. To facilitate the collection of tax, wholesalers and retail dealers pay an amount equal to the tax when they purchase tobacco products from their suppliers. The suppliers remit the tobacco tax to the ministry every month. When wholesalers and retail dealers sell tobacco products to their customers, they will include the tobacco tax, effectively reimbursing themselves for the amount paid to their supplier.
Who needs to register?
You need to register with the ministry if you engage in any of these tobacco activities:
- mark cigarettes and fine cut tobacco
- interjurisdictionally transport
- purchase, possess, store or sell unmarked cigarettes or unmarked fine cut tobacco.
Any person who possesses or imports into Ontario, equipment for manufacturing cigarettes in Ontario must obtain a manufacturer's registration certificate.
The Minister of Finance (minister) may impose reasonable conditions and restrictions on those permits or registrations and may amend or remove conditions or restrictions at any time.
Cigar wholesalers and manufacturers with direct sales to consumers must be designated as cigar tax collectors. Tobacco tax collectors and registered importers who deal in cigars must also become cigar tax collectors.
To help persons who engage in the tobacco business with identifying persons authorized by the minister to sell and distribute tobacco products, the ministry maintains a list of persons registered under the Act, other than retail dealers. Anyone can subscribe to email alerts to stay informed of changes to registrant status (e.g. authorized, suspended and cancelled registrations). View the registrant list.
To inquire about registering under the Act:
- call the Ministry of Finance at 1-866-ONT-TAXS (1-866-668-8297)
- when prompted, say tobacco
- you will be transferred to a representative who can explain the registration process and requirements.
Will I have to post security?
Before the minister issues you a permit, registration certificate or a designation, you may need to provide security through a surety bond or letter of credit.
In most cases, the amount of security required is equal to three months' tax, subject to legislated minimums which range from $10,000 to $1,000,000 depending on registration type(s).
Acceptable forms of security include:
- irrevocable Letters of Credit issued by and redeemable at an Ontario branch of a Canadian Chartered Bank in the standard form approved by the ministry.
- Surety Bonds issued by financial institutions registered with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario to deal in surety. See list of registered financial institutions.
- cash (interest will not be paid).
Following are links to approved forms:
How do I file tobacco returns?
To maintain tobacco tax accountability, the ministry requires registrants to file monthly tobacco tax returns. Fines and penalties may apply if returns and payments are not received by the due date, are incomplete or tax is not remitted in full. Retail dealers are not required to file returns.
Once you register with the Ministry of Finance the ministry will mail to you each month a personalized return. You must complete this return, even if you did not have any activity during the reporting period.
Didn't get a return this month? Please call the Ministry of Finance at 1-866-ONT-TAXS (1-866-668-8297).
You can file your return:
- online, using ONT-TAXS online
- by mail to: Ministry of Finance, 33 King Street West, PO Box 620, Oshawa ON L1H 8E9
- in person at Ministry of Finance, 33 King Street West, Oshawa or at certain ServiceOntario locations.
If you use ONT-TAXS online, you can elect to stop receiving paper returns by clicking the Change in Issuing Returns link.
Registrants must keep, at their principal place of business, records and books of account for all tobacco product purchases and sales for seven years. Failure to do so may result in penalties or fines.
Completed tobacco tax returns, along with any tobacco tax collectable and payable, are to be delivered to the ministry by the 28th day of the month following the end of your reporting period.
There are a few exceptions, including:
- collectors and importers: return is due by the 10th day of the month
- markers of cigarettes and fine cut tobacco: return is due by the 28th day of the month unless you're also a collector, then return is due on the 10th.
Effective January 1, 2018, there are restrictions on the import, possession, sale and delivery of cigarette filter components to tobacco manufacturers registered under the Act, except for any exemptions prescribed under the regulation.
Cigarette filter components are the raw materials used to create cigarette filters. For the purposes of provincial regulation, cigarette filter components include acetate tow, polypropylene tow and cigarette filter rods made from acetate tow or polypropylene tow.
The new requirements under the Act:
- deem any person that possesses or imports cigarette filter components into Ontario to be a manufacturer under the Act and therefore requires manufacturing permits unless otherwise prescribed under regulation
- prohibit sales and delivery of cigarette filter components to any persons not registered under the Act
- impose penalties and offence provisions for non-compliance and provide seizure and forfeiture authorities
- specify record-keeping requirements
- provide inspection and audit authority.
The Act includes prescribed circumstances that exempt certain persons from the requirement to be deemed a manufacturer under the Act.
Exemptions exist for:
- educational institutions that import or possess cigarette filter components for research, education and testing purposes
- individuals or businesses that import or possess individual cigarette filter tips that are less than 30mm in length and 8mm in width
- persons that import or possess cigarette filter components for non-tobacco purposes that notify the Minister in writing
- persons that possess cigarette filter components for the purpose of storing it on behalf of a registered tobacco manufacturer where the Minister has been notified of the business arrangement.
- persons that are only transporting or delivering the cigarette filter components if that person holds the appropriate documentation demonstrating the person purchasing the components is registered under the Act or is a person that meets an exemption under the Act.
Tobacco stamps – cigarettes and fine cut tobacco
Ontario-adapted federal stamp
All packages of cigarettes and packages of fine cut tobacco for sale to consumers who have to pay tobacco tax in Ontario must be marked with the Ontario-adapted federal stamp. Under the Act, marked tobacco product means packages of cigarettes and packages of fine cut tobacco marked with the Ontario-adapted federal stamp.
The Ontario-adapted federal stamp contains security features and has a yellow background with the letters ON in white and in black letters, the words DUTY PAID CANADA DROIT ACQUITTÉ.
The Ontario-adapted federal stamp indicates that the tobacco products have been purchased in the province through the legitimate wholesale-retail-consumer chain.
Peach-coloured federal stamp
Packages of cigarettes and packages of fine cut tobacco for sale to First Nations under Ontario's First Nation Cigarette Allocation System and diplomats must have the peach-coloured federal stamp. For the purpose of the Act, packages of cigarettes and packages of fine cut tobacco with the peach-coloured federal stamp are considered 'unmarked'.
To purchase, possess, store, or sell unmarked cigarettes or unmarked fine cut tobacco you must hold a Permit to Purchase and Sell Unmarked Cigarettes and/or a Permit to Purchase and Sell Unmarked Fine Cut Tobacco.
Unless otherwise permitted in the limited exceptions under the Act, it is illegal for anyone to purchase, possess or sell any quantity of cigarettes or package of fine cut tobacco not marked with the Ontario-adapted federal stamp.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) distributes Ontario-adapted stamps and peach-coloured stamps to registered manufacturers and registered importers through a secure process. Records must be maintained to account for the stamps. Stamp denominations are available in the following units:
Fine Cut Tobacco Packages
Who can sell tobacco products?
To sell tobacco products to a consumer you need to hold a tobacco retail dealer's permit issued under the Act.
If you are an authorized reserve retailer under Ontario's First Nations Cigarette Allocation System you are deemed to hold a tobacco retail dealer's permit. On-reserve tobacco retailers who hold an authorization letter from the Ministry of Finance are not required to apply for the tobacco retail dealer's permit.
All retail dealers are required:
- to hold a valid Tobacco Retail Dealer's Permit
- to comply with the conditions and/or restrictions on their permit
- to notify the ministry in writing if their business name changes, the nature of their business changes or if their business closes, and
- to buy tobacco products from a ministry-authorized wholesaler with a valid permit.
Failure to comply with the above requirements can result in fines and penalties under the Act.
In addition, you should:
- contact your municipality about any bylaws about the sale of tobacco
- contact your local health unit about requirements under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA) for the sale, storage, display and promotion of tobacco products. Your local public health unit is responsible for enforcing the SFOA and can answer further questions regarding enforcement. Find the public health unit serving your region.
- contact the Canada Revenue Agency about the HST.
You need to hold a wholesaler's permit under the Act if you sell tobacco products for resale.
As a wholesaler, before you sell or deliver tobacco products to a retailer, you must confirm that the retailer holds a retail dealer's permit under the Act, or is an authorized reserve retailer under Ontario's First Nations Cigarette Allocation System.
Both the Tobacco Tax Act and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibit a wholesaler or distributor from delivering tobacco products to a location that has been issued a notice of prohibition against the sale, storage and delivery of tobacco products. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care notifies wholesalers and distributors in writing of all tobacco retail locations that are subject to an Automatic Prohibition. Through an email alert, the Ministry of Finance notifies wholesalers of tobacco retail locations that are temporarily prohibited from selling, offering for sale or storing tobacco products. Subscribe to the email alert here.
How is cigar tax calculated?
Cigar tax is calculated as:
- cigar tax = taxable price of cigar X 56.6%
The taxable price of a cigar is the price for which the cigar was purchased by the retail dealer, inclusive of all consideration given by the retail dealer of the cigar as well as federal excise duty and all costs and charges relating to mailing, delivery and transportation, plus a prescribed percentage of 22% of the sum of these amounts. HST is not included when calculating the taxable price of a cigar.
The exception is where the importer or manufacturer of a cigar is also its retail dealer. Then, the taxable price of the cigar is the price for which the cigar was purchased by the consumer, inclusive of all consideration given by the consumer for the cigar as well as federal excise duty and all costs and charges relating to mailing, delivery and transportation. HST is not included when calculating the taxable price. However, HST applies to the retail price of the cigar and is payable by the consumer at the point of sale.
Wholesalers are required to provide invoices or receipts at the time of the purchase, containing the following information:
- name and address of the vendor
- the price of purchase by the retail dealer of each cigar
- the quantity of each cigar purchased
- the amount of tax charged for each cigar
- the prescribed percentage (currently 22%), and
- the date of purchase.
Retail dealers have a duty to supply every cigar customer certain information by way of an invoice or another reasonable means. The information must include:
- the name and address of the vendor
- the purchase price of each cigar on which tax was calculated
- the quantity of each cigar purchased
- the amount of tax charged for each cigar, and
- the date of purchase.
Another reasonable means
The ministry has approved the following as another reasonable means:
- Upon request by a consumer, the retail dealer may, by referring to the supplier invoice for the cigars, specify to the consumer the cigar tax payable. Where a retail dealer does not keep invoices on-site, the retail dealer may provide the consumer with a telephone number to call to obtain the information.
- The retail dealer may provide or post an information sheet specifying the amount of cigar tax payable by product type.
Retail dealers who want to use another reasonable means not listed above may provide their request in writing to the ministry detailing another reasonable means by which they propose to specify the tax payable and give the consumer that information. Submissions do not need to be formal, but should be well detailed. The ministry will respond to each submission.
Tobacco tax refunds
If you collect tobacco tax or you purchase tobacco products for resale, you may be eligible to apply for a refund of tax paid on tobacco products that have been:
- sold, and all or part of the sale price has not been paid and has become an uncollectible debt (referred to as a bad debt), or
- lost, stolen, destroyed or contaminated and cannot be sold or used.
In the case of a refund claim resulting from bad debt, the applicant and debtor must be dealing at arm's length in the meaning of section 251 of the Income Tax Act (Canada) at the time of the sale of the tobacco to which the debt related.
There is a four year limitation for refund applications.
If the refund applicant is a collector, the application may be delivered with the monthly tax return. The collector may deduct the amount of the refund claimed from the remittance amount. It is not necessary to attach the required documentation; however, it must be retained for subsequent verification by the minister.
Refunds for exporters
Registered exporters may apply for a refund of Ontario tobacco tax paid on cigars and other tobacco products exported from Ontario. A refund is not available on Ontario marked cigarettes and Ontario marked fine cut tobacco.
Direct bank deposit
Get your Ministry of Finance refund or rebate faster with direct deposit! It's easy and secure.
Consequences of non-compliance
Ontario's enforcement program includes a range of audit, investigation and inspection activities.
The Act provides for numerous fines and penalties for persons who are involved in tobacco activities without authorization. You can also be sent to jail, have your tobacco products seized, your vehicle impounded and, if you are a retail dealer, prohibited from selling tobacco products for up to 180 days.