In response to the needs of First Nations and taxpayers alike during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the FNTC has been working hard to ensure all First Nations have the flexibility needed to administer their tax systems while rapidly responding to the ongoing pandemic.
Effective May 21, 2020, the Commission approved the COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Response Standards, 2020. These Standards amend several Commission Standards in response to the pandemic.
FMA First Nations
Facilitating Council Meetings Held by Videoconference or Teleconference
The Commission has amended Section 11 of the Standards for the Submission of Information Required under Section 8 of the Act, 2018 to make it easier to submit laws when council approved the law during a teleconference or videoconference.
When council meets by teleconference or videoconference, a First Nation may not able to submit an originally signed and dated law after the meeting. Under the revised standards, a certification letter may be provided as evidence that a law was duly enacted by a quorum of Council, and a certificate may be attached to the front of the law. The certification letter confirms a law was approved by Council, at a duly convened meeting conducted via teleconference or videoconference, with quorum present throughout. The certificate confirms that the document provided is a complete version of the duly enacted law.
FNTC has also developed an alternative enactment clause for use in the Annual Laws and Local Revenue Laws, which reflects the format of the meeting and specifies that a quorum of Council was present. For example:
THIS LAW IS HEREBY DULY ENACTED by the Council at a duly called and conducted Council meeting conducted by [videoconference OR teleconference] on ______________, 2020, at which the required quorum of __ councillors was present throughout.
Instructions for submitting an certified Local Revenue Law to the FNTC and copies of the FNTC Sample Certification Letter and Certificate can be obtained by contacting Tracey Simon, FMA Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FNTC requires original laws be submitted to the Commission and placed in the Registry. We will remain flexible regarding the submission of original signed laws. We request all First Nations submit their duly enacted originally signed laws at their earliest convenience once it is safe to do so.
Open Houses and Public Meeting Required by the Standards May Be Held Remotely in 2020
We also understand that certain notification requirements, such as hosting open houses, public meetings, and taxpayer meetings are not currently safe. We have amended the Standards respecting Notices relating to Local Revenue Laws, 2018 to enable these notification requirements to be conducted via teleconference or videoconference during the 2020 year.
Enabling Rate Relief in 2020
For First Nations using CPI to set their rates, section 7 of the Standards for First Nation Annual Tax Rates Laws, 2017 has been amended. First Nations may provide tax relief by lowering their rates in 2020, and then setting their 2021 rates as though the 2020 rates had increased by CPI.
For those First Nations that typically set their rates using reference jurisdiction tax rates, section 8 of the Standards for First Nation Annual Tax Rates Laws, 2017 has been amended to enable First Nations to reduce their rates in 2020 to provide tax relief, while returning to reference jurisdiction rate setting for the 2021 year.
Enabling Zero-Interest Reserve Fund Borrowing
To stabilize annual local revenues and permit local service provision to remain unhindered, subsection 7.2 of the Standards for First Nation Property Taxation Laws, 2016 and section 8 of the Standards for First Nation Expenditure Laws, 2017 have been amended. A First Nation needing money to provide local services may borrow from a reserve fund, interest-free, for a maximum of 5 years. This change would require amending the property taxation law to enable the borrowing.
Amending Laws – Requesting Exemptions to Notice Periods and Notification Requirements
First Nations interested in implementing a mitigation measure or amending their property taxation law should contact their FNTC tax advisor, as amendments to property taxation laws are subject to the notification requirements pursuant to sections 6 and 8 of the FMA. To enable an expedient response by First Nation governments, the Commission will consider requests for exemptions from these requirements. FNTC has developed sample exemption request letters to support COVID-related amendments without requiring a First Nation to adhere to the 30-day notification period.
Proposed Federal Mitigation Support
The FNTC continues to await the development and implementation of a federal mitigation support program. In anticipation of an announcement by the federal government, the Commission has amended section 2 of the Standards for First Nation Expenditure Laws, 2017. A First Nation’s annual budget would be required to set out as revenues, any monies received through a federal tax deferral program. These monies would then be allocated as an expenditure in their annual expenditure law.
s. 83 First Nations
Facilitating Council Meetings Held by Videoconference or Teleconference
Many First Nation Councils are holding meetings by videoconference or teleconference. This may impede Council from submitting an originally signed and dated by-law after the meeting. FNTC has developed a by-law approval certification letter, which may be provided as evidence that a by-law was duly enacted by a quorum of council. We have also developed a certificate to attach to the front of the by-law, which confirms that the document provided is a complete version of the duly enacted by-law.
FNTC has also developed an alternative enactment clause for use in the Annual By-laws and Local Revenue By-Laws, which reflects the format of the meeting and specifies that a quorum of Council was present. For example:
THIS BY-LAW IS HEREBY DULY ENACTED by the Council at a duly called and conducted Council meeting conducted by [videoconference OR teleconference] on ______________, 2020, at which the required quorum of __ councillors was present throughout.
Instructions for submitting a certified Local Revenue By-law to the FNTC, copies of the FNTC Sample Certification Letter and the Certificate can be obtained by contacting Lilian Richards, S. 83 Registrar and Records Manager at email@example.com.
s. 83 Registry
FNTC requires original by-laws be submitted to the Commission and placed in the Registry. We will continue to be flexible regarding by-law submission, and request all First Nations submit their duly enacted originally signed by-laws once it is safe to do so.
Many First Nations are considering providing taxpayer relief through mitigation measures such as deferrals, discounts, rate reductions and grants. If your First Nation wishes to discuss developing a mitigation measure, please contact your FNTC Advisor. Some measures, such as delayed tax notices may be implemented administratively. However, some measures may require amendments to property taxation by-laws.
Requesting Exemptions to Notice Periods and Notification Requirements
Amendments to property taxation by-laws are subject to notification requirements. In supporting First Nations to respond swiftly, the Commission will consider requests for exemption from the notification period. FNTC has developed a sample notification exemption request letter to support COVID-related amendments without the 30-day notification period.
The FNTC staff are working remotely and continue to provide technical assistance. Should you have any questions or concerns please contact your FNTC advisor. We are here to help.