There are 196 First Nations in British Columbia, with approximately 1,600 reserves, ranging from remote fishing camps to small towns and urban centres. Forty-five of these reserves are located within municipal boundaries, and another thirty are immediately adjacent. Sixty per cent of leased lands on First Nations Reserves in Canada are in B.C. Federal and provincial legislation allow for First Nations to assess and tax real property on First Nations Reserves, including real property occupied by non-First Nations people.
BC Assessment provides assessment services under contract with a number of First Nations across the province in support of their independent taxation of their reserve lands. The following information is provided for assistance only. For further information on First Nations’ assessment and taxation, please consult the First Nations Tax Commission (FNTC) website.
First Nations Assessment and Taxation of Occupiers of Real Property on Reserve Lands
The two types of Federal legislation providing for a First Nation to assess and tax occupiers of its reserves are:
(1) Section 83 of the Indian Act, which allows First Nations to pass assessment and taxation bylaws to tax occupiers of real property on reserve lands. Such bylaws must be approved by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada;
(2) The First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act (“FSMA”), which provides for First Nations to pass assessment and taxation laws to tax occupiers of real property on their reserve lands. The First Nations Tax Commission (FNTC) approves assessment and taxation laws under the FSMA.
Depending on the legislation, the First Nation’s assessment rules will be established under bylaws (for the Indian Act) or laws (for the FSMA). Please consult the First Nations Gazette for actual copies of First Nations assessment and taxation bylaws/laws. The website for the First Nations Gazette is: http://www.fng.ca/onlinegazette.htm.
The Indian Self Government Enabling Act (“ISGEA”) is Provincial legislation which provides First Nations with three options for entering the property tax field:
Concurrent Taxation – allows First Nations and local governments to share taxation.
Independent Taxation – allows provincial taxes to be completely removed if First Nations wish to implement their own property tax system. First Nations wishing to enter into independent taxation must pass property assessment and taxation bylaws. The federal First Nations Tax Commission (FNTC) supports the band as it develops the bylaws and reviews them once they are completed. The FNTC may also intervene in disputes to try and facilitate an agreement. All Indian Act assessment and taxation bylaws must be approved by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, but FSMA assessment and taxation laws need approval only of the FNTC.
Indian District Taxation – allows First Nations to assume duties and functions similar to those of a municipality or other authority providing local services, once it has obtained the status of Indian District from the federal government.
First Nations in British Columbia have all adopted independent taxation as their model of taxation.
Summary of process under ISGEA for First Nations entering field of real property taxation:
The First Nation sends a Notice of Intent to enter independent taxation for a specific year to the BC Minister of Finance. The Notice must specify which reserve(s) for which the First Nation intends to exercise independent taxation.
March 1 is a key date with regard to the Notice of Intent. If a First Nation intends to enact bylaws/laws before March 1 of the calendar year of the notice, the bylaw/law can take effect in either the current or the next calendar year. If a First Nation intends to enact bylaws/laws after March 1, then the First Nation must confirm, in the Notice, that the next calendar year will be the first for which taxes will be imposed.
After receiving the Notice of Intent, the Minister of Finance will issue a certificate notifying other tax authorities that the First Nation intends to proceed with independent taxation.
The First Nation submits Assessment and Taxation bylaws/laws to the FNTC for review.
The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada approves the bylaws or the FNTC approves the laws. Once approved, the First Nation will enter independent taxation for the current or next taxation year (as specified by the bylaws/laws), and the folios (Assessment Roll Numbers) must be removed from the provincial roll.
The First Nation can choose to contract with BC Assessment for assessment services, hire a tax agent to prepare its assessment roll, or prepare the roll itself.
Role of BC Assessment
Under contract, BC Assessment will prepare the assessment roll and act as assessor, as set out in the agreement for assessment services. BC Assessment may also provide some or all of the following additional services:
setting up initial jurisdiction coding, identification and program modifications
assisting in developing property and ownership records;
upgrading the integrity of existing records in cooperation with First Nation clients;
reviewing and suggesting modifications of bylaws/laws, upon First Nation's request given that these bylaws/laws may not exactly match the Assessment Act;
informing First Nations of changes to provincial legislation affecting the assessment process;
defending assessments through the review process, in accordance with the terms of the contract of services;
handling additional inquiries when Tax Notices are issued;
providing other professional assessment services not covered under the ISGEA.
As a general rule, the cost of assessment services is the BC Assessment levy amount, plus a one-time setup fee. If the First Nation wishes BC Assessment to provide other types of services, then a different fee structure may apply.
BC Assessment will complete the assessment roll as of December 31 prior to the taxation year. After the appeal period (or reconsideration period, for FSMA laws), BC Assessment will then create a revised roll (perhaps called an authenticated roll in some First Nations bylaws), which it provides to First Nations clients. The First Nation uses the revised (authenticated) roll to set tax rates for various classes of property, and to send tax notices to each taxable property occupier.
The First Nation (or a contractor hired by the First Nation for this purpose) prepares its tax notices based on the assessment roll. Typically the tax notices are sent out in late spring/early summer.
For More Information
For more information contact:
400 - 3450 Uptown Blvd.
Victoria BC V8Z OB9
Or consult the FNTC, at http://www.fntc.ca/index.php/en/ .