University of Saskatchewan

Financial Services (FS)

Fact Sheet: GST – Courses, Conferences, Workshops and Seminars

Universities are not required to charge GST on the tuition/registration fee for a credit or a non-credit course PROVIDED the course falls within one of the categories listed below:

1. Credit courses leading to a diploma or degree.

Courses leading to or for the purpose of maintaining or upgrading a professional or trade accreditation or designation recognized by a regulatory body.[1]

This exemption is not intended to include courses which are taken to merely broaden individuals knowledge in a particular field and which are not strictly required to obtain, maintain or upgrade an accreditation or designation. To fall within this exemption, the continuing education [“CE”] hours must be mandatory in order for the professionals to retain their license to practice.

Courses that fall within this category are exempt for all participants, even for those who are not taking the course for purposes of obtaining, maintaining, or upgrading an accreditation or designation.


Courses leading to certificates, diplomas, licenses or similar documents or classes or ratings in respect of licenses, that attest to the competence of individuals to practice or perform a trade or vocation.

Canada Revenue Agency ["CRA"] will consider a course to provide individuals with the competence to practise a trade or vocation if the course has a direct link to skills that relate to the ability to gain or retain employment. Also, to qualify under this category, the pass/fail must be based on the evaluation of the student’s performance on a single, or series of, tests, graded materials or projects [i.e., there is real potential for a student to be held back in the event that she or he is not competent in the course material].

4. Language courses that form part of a program of second-language instruction in either English or French.

Courses, other than recreational courses, that are part of a program that consists of two or more courses and that is subject to the review of and is approved by a council, board or committee of the university.

A group of two or more courses is considered to constitute a program if:

  • The group of courses are related in terms of either the content of the courses or the purpose of the courses, and
  • The University advertises and represents the group of courses as constituting a program.
6. A course that is approved for credit or follows a curriculum of an approved school authority.
7. Recreational classes or activities provided one of the following conditions apply:
  1. It is reasonable to expect that the program will be provided primarily (50% or more) to children 14 years old or younger [unless the program involves overnight supervision throughout a substantial portion of the program].
  2. The program is offered primarily for underprivileged individuals or individuals with a disability.

To fall within category (1) to (6) above, the session must be a “course” versus a conference, workshop, or seminar. The dividing line between a course and a seminar is not always clear. It is CRA's interpretation that a course is generally regarded as a body of studies presented to students as a learning activity that consists primarily of instruction and learning activities pertaining to a particular body of knowledge. CRA requires that a course has some means to 'test' participants' knowledge of the subject matter. If, to pass the course, participants must successfully complete an exam, it likely will be accepted as a course. Also, CRA may accept it as a course even when participants are not required to complete a formal exam, but only if there are other means to evaluate how the participant comprehends the course material (e.g. graded assignments; student is able to meet with instructor outside of class times; other means to assess the student's progress).  

If tangible goods (such as books or manuals) or catering services are sold separately or separately itemized on an invoice, GST may apply to these items.

GST – Conferences/ Seminars/ Workshops

Admission in respect of a university-operated conference, seminar or similar event is subject to GST, even where the event provides CE hours. GST collected must be deposited into the GST CFOAPAL.

There is a need to determine if the University, another organization or combination thereof is operating an event. To make such determination the following factors should be considered:

If it is determined that the event is operated by another organization/company, then that organization/company must advise the University whether or not GST is to be charged.   This determination will depend upon the organization’s GST status. The University, if collecting the revenue on behalf of the other organization, must ensure that it is appropriately collecting GST on the related fees. The GST collected on behalf of the external organization cannot be coded to the University’s GST CFOAPAL; rather it must be paid to the external organization to remit on their GST account with CRA.

It is the responsibility of the external organization to ensure it complies with all statutory requirements, including GST return filing requirements and any related payment to CRA, etc.  


The University of Saskatchewan’s GST business number [11927 9313 RT0001] (or another organization’s GST business number if the University is not the operator of the event) must be included on all invoices/receipts. As well, for courses subject to GST, the GST amount must be clearly stated on the invoice/receipt. For courses that are GST-exempt, the invoice/receipt must include the following statement: GST-exempt public institution supply.

Non-residents must be charged GST on the registration fee for a conference held in Canada. GST would apply regardless if the fee is paid here or prepaid from outside of Canada. There are special rules for a non-resident rebate where 75% or more of the attendees are non-Canadian residents.

Recovery of GST Paid on Related Expenditures

The University is eligible to recover 100% of the GST paid on expenditures incurred to offer taxable events (i.e., conferences, seminars). Where these costs are tracked within a unique fund code, the GST recovery rate can be set at 100%. Please advise your financial analysts of these fund codes so UniFi can be set to recover 100% of the related GST.

For GST-exempt events, (i.e., GST-exempt courses, events for internal participants) the University is eligible to recover 67% of the GST paid on the related expenditures. This rate is the default rate within UniFi so no action is required in these cases.

What happens if the event is for both internal and external users?

[1] A regulatory body must be constituted or empowered by provincial legislation to regulate a profession or trade in the province by setting standards of knowledge and proficiency, as well as, registering or licensing individuals practicing the trade or profession.