CORNER BROOK — It’s my right!
Or is it?
If you’re a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band looking to avoid paying taxes on goods you purchase, Brendan Sheppard wants you to know that it’s not your right.
Sheppard, chief of the band, said exemption from paying sales tax on goods is not a part of the agreement in principle with the federal government on the formation of the band, nor is it offered under the Indian Act.
Therefore, he said stores that refuse to offer tax-free shopping to band members are not violating anyone’s rights.
“In actual fact, these businesses are only living up to the policy of the federal government that aboriginal people, status people, are only entitled to tax exemption on goods that are delivered to a reserve,” said Sheppard.
As an example Sheppard uses the offer of local car dealerships who advertise tax free purchases for band members.
“The vehicle itself by the dealership must be delivered to the reserve,” said Sheppard.
The dealerships will do this, but they charge a $500 fee and the reserve (in Conne River) charges one hundred dollars.
Sheppard said people are not getting the full story through the ads, and while the purchaser does not pay taxes on the vehicle, it is not as simple a process as it’s made out to be — nor is it without cost.
Sheppard said the thing that concerns him the most are the stories of people refusing to pay taxes on purchases of things like clothing and footwear and who claim paying the sales tax is a violation of their rights.
He recently received an email from a man who went to a local store and was quite “uptight” and “strong” in his dealing with the store in his argument that his rights were being violated.
“I think that’s totally wrong for our Mi’kmaq population to be actually going that distance with regards to their status and their rights,” said Sheppard.
After a discussion with the store’s headquarters the man was able to make his purchase tax free, and Sheppard figures that story will now spread “like wildfire” with everybody who has a card within the Bay of Islands area and throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, knowing the store offers tax-free shopping to status members. He said the store will continue to do that until it is advised differently and he has called and advised them about it.
He also wants his members to know there could be repercussions to not paying taxes.
“I’m not so certain that if the Government of Canada can come back on the individual who is purchasing this tax free item as well, because they are providing their registration number,” said Sheppard.
“So it’s possible Revenue Canada could come back and say you owe taxes on this or they could basically say to the business you set the policy of tax free for those individuals, now you will have to pay taxes on those items.”
Sheppard brought his concerns forward to clear up the confusion among the Qalipu people, so that other people don’t go into stores demanding rights that don’t exist.
He said the original intent in the formation of the band was recognition of aboriginal people that were left out when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949. Also included in the agreement to form the band were certain education and non-insured health benefits.
“And anything else that’s not in this agreement obviously will be worked on at some point in time,” said Sheppard.
He doubts exemption from paying taxes will come from the federal level, but noted point of sale exemption on provincial sales taxes, similar to what’s offered in Ontario, is something that is on the band’s radar to lobby for.