By Kevin Restoule
As a First Nation citizen, you have many rights, some of which are affirmed by the federal and provincial governments through the issuance of a status card. One of them is the right to tax exemption within the Province of Ontario, but how exactly does this right work?
The Government of Ontario has guaranteed the right to tax exemption to all status First Nations people on certain goods and services, regardless of location of residence. This means that if you have a federal-issued status card, purchases that you make may be entitled to an exemption from the 8% PST portion of the HST.
There are two possible ways to obtain this exemption. The first is what is called the point of sale exemption, which requires the purchaser/status card holder to present their original status card at the time of purchase for the retailer to visually confirm the card, document the registration number and process the transaction without including the 8% portion of the HST. It is important for status card holders to know that no other identification or information is required except their government issued status card. In addition, the government does not require retailers to submit copies of status cards, so photocopying the card is not necessary. The collection of this unnecessary data violates privacy rights, even if it is store policy.
The second method is to fill out and submit an application (form 0248E) by registered mail with original receipts to the Ministry of Finance for a refund on the tax paid. Due to the refund being given through the mail, the Ministry of Finance does require that a photocopy of the status card (both sides) accompany the application for their visual confirmation.
Retailers are not allowed make any price adjustments concerning status First Nations customers in order to compensate for the exemption as this constitutes a human rights violation on the grounds of discrimination and is against the law, even if it is store policy.
The Ontario Ministry of Finance has implemented a hotline service at 1-866-ONT-TAXS (1-866-668-8297) that will accept calls from citizens to report retailers that:
- refuse to provide the tax exemption for First Nation customers upon presentation of a valid status card;
- insist on the collection of unnecessary personal information (such as taking a photocopy of a status card, address, phone number, email, signature etc.) as a requirement before providing the exemption;
- raise the price on purchased items that qualify for exemption;
- insist that you pay the full tax at the time of purchase and submit your receipt to the Ministry of Finance for refund;
- are unsure about how to process tax exempt transactions; or
- are confused or are under the wrong understanding about the rules for First Nations tax exemption.
Calling the Ministry of Finance hotline to file a report regarding a retailer will help to:
- educate the retail community at large about tax exemption for First Nations;
- allow for policy and perspective changes of retailers and facilitate easier tax exemption processing in the future; and
- protect and exercise your First Nation right to tax exemption.
As a consumer, it is your right to decide which retailers you wish to do business with. If you do not agree with store policy, you have the right to go elsewhere. For more information visit http://www.anishinabek.ca/notax/