(File photo)

Islands leaders make the case for full northern tax deduction

It’s one for the money, two to show tax fairness for the high cost of living on Haida Gwaii.

Elected leaders from across the islands are once again asking Canada’s minister of national revenue to make Haida Gwaii eligible for the full northern residents’ tax deduction.

If accepted, the change would apply to the 2018 tax year. While everyone’s tax scenario is different, it would basically double the deduction that is currently available to people who live on island most of the year.

“I’m very hopeful,” said Janine North, executive director of the Misty Isles Economic Development Society, which organized the campaign.

North said that after researching factors such as the average cost of basic necessities or travel to a major city, Haida Gwaii is actually more expensive than some of the other places already included in the Canada Revenue Agency’s full “northern” zone.

“We tried to think about peoples’ basics — food, fuel, and clothing,” she said. Along with gas and groceries, MIEDS looked at things like the cost to ship a pair of jeans here from Walmart.

Not only were basic costs higher, North added, but both the federal and provincial governments rank Haida Gwaii as a more isolated place than some of the communities already in the CRA’s northern zone.

In B.C., the northern-zone communities include Atlin, Dease Lake, Iskut, White Pass, and Tahltan. Residents there can reduce their taxable income by up to $4,015 a year — twice that if they are the only person in the home to make a claim.

Further deductions are available to northern residents who get travel benefits from their employer.

Right now, Haida Gwaii is considered part of the “intermediate zone,” where the basic deduction rate is $5.50 rather than $11 per day. Other intermediate-zone communities include Tumbler Ridge, Taylor, Stewart, Hudson’s Hope and Dawson Creek.

Letters making the case for Haida Gwaii’s inclusion in the northern zone were sent to National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier on April 12, signed by the elected leaders of Masset, Port Clements, Skidegate, Queen Charlotte, and the regional district.

“This is probably the third or fourth time that we’ve made this request,” said Masset Mayor Andrew Merilees, adding that local MP Nathan Cullen has championed petitions for the change before.

With the new information from MIEDS, Merilees said he is more hopeful the request will finally be granted.

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