Nunavik teachers win tax rebate on housing benefit

New assessments will go back to 1999


The Association of Employees of Northern Quebec says it has succeeded in ending what it calls the the over-taxation of housing benefits provided to its members.

Calling this taxation “unfair,” the union says the federal and provincial governments likely collected several million dollars too much from its members over the past 10 years.

That’s because the union’s members — mainly teachers and support staff — who live in staff housing pay only a portion of what the Kativik School Board sets as the unit’s market rent.

The balance of rent is recorded as a taxable benefit on which these KSB employees pay taxes.

If the market value of their rents has been set too high, they’ve been paying too much in taxes, the union says.

Now Quebec’s revenue department has agreed to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to reimburse the overpayment of taxes paid on the value of housing provided to union members.

Josée Morin from Revenue Québec wrote union president Patrick D’Astous that union members will be entitled to an “assessment based on the fair market value as a taxable benefit of their dwelling…”

This means that union members will see a reimbursement if the assessment of the rent is lower than the listed as a taxable benefit set by the school board.

The new assessments will go back to 1999.

Those who have already contested the taxable value of their housing will be reimbursed in the coming weeks and months.

The Cree School Board has agreed to a new way of calculating rents for its employees who live in staff housing.

But the KSB has yet to agree to change how it calculates the amount of rent considered as a taxable benefit, D’Astous said.

The value of rents set by the KSB for staff housing are way too high, he said.

So the union has started legal proceedings.

“The union hopes even so that the KSB will see the light before going into arbitration,” D’Astous said.

Reducing the tax burden on KSB employees could help with retention, he said.

“About 300 teachers are hired from outside to work in Nunavik to make sure Inuit students receive the educational services they have a right to,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s the quality of public education given to aboriginal students that will be affected.”

About 70 teachers did not renew their contracts with the KSB for the 2009-10 school year.

This means the KSB has had to hire many new teachers, despite perks that include low rents, subsidized cargo and paid trips back home.

Professional and teaching staff also receive bonuses from $3,500 to $9,000 a year, depending on employees’ length of service and place of employment.

But these benefits are still not enough to keep many at the KSB because they also face high taxes on some of these benefits.

The association of northern Quebec employees, formerly known as the I>l’Association de l’enseignement du Nouveau-Quebec or the northern Quebec teaching union, was founded in 1971. The union now has more than 1,500 teachers and support staff in Nunavik and the Cree communities.

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