Families, Tips & Advice

Trick or Treat? How Halloween Candy is Taxed

By Jennifer Gorman, TurboTax

When my kids were young, Halloween was a BIG deal. After hours of scouring the neighbourhood for treats and then checking the haul for safety, the joy of the sort began. Chips into one pile, bars into another, less attractive offerings into what my son deemed “the pile of disappointment”. As a single mom on a tight budget, I’d secretly smile whenever a juice box or suitable school snack was tossed into that pile.

Because the house was empty while we were out beating the streets for treats, I didn’t have to worry about goblins at my door until my kids were old enough to venture out without me. When that time came, I soon realized that that the expense of providing candy to the neighbourhood kids could easily break the bank. And then of course the tax!

How much tax you pay on candy varies upon where you live. Because candy is considered to be a snack, 5% GST is charged in all provinces and territories. Depending on your location, the tax factor may not end there. The cost of a $10 (pre-tax) box of treat-sized bars can vary greatly from province to province.

For the territories and province without a provincial sales tax component (Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alberta), your out-the-door cost totals $10.50 as only GST is collected. Other provinces with a stand-alone provincial tax (not HST) such as Saskatchewan, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba each have their own rules and exemptions for candy. Your bars are exempt from provincial tax in British Columbia and Saskatchewan while Manitoba residents will tack on an extra 8% in RST (Retail Sales Tax) bringing the checkout total to $11.30. Quebecers will pay $11.50 after both GST and QST are applied.

Those of us living in HST collecting provinces also don’t fare well in the candy-tax department. In all four of the Atlantic Provinces, your case of bars is subject to HST. In Newfoundland and New Brunswick, your checkout total will be $11.30, while Prince Edward Islanders and Nova Scotians will pay a bit more – $11.40 and $11.50 respectively. Ontario also collects the full 13% HST on your treat purchase.

Unless you plan on handing out apples on Halloween (which truthfully get tossed out for safety concerns by most parents) you’re going to end up paying some sort of tax on your treats. I can offer one gem of advice to save a few dollars. Buy treats you don’t like. I can’t tell you how many mini bags of Skittles were consumed in my household in the weeks leading up to Halloween. I wish I could blame the kids.

About Jennifer Gorman:

Jennifer is a tax expert with the TurboTax’s customer support team. With more than 20 years of tax preparation experience, she enjoys holding yearly seminars in her hometown in Newfoundland to teach seniors and students how to use TurboTax to prepare their own returns.