All they did was obtain the correct liquor license, but that was what it took to trigger a higher tax bracket for the Burns Lake Legion.
Robert Winning, the president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 50, and the organization’s treasurer, Jeannie Parkinson, went before the Jan. 24 gathering of council to plead for re-assessment after they were informed that the Village of Burns Lake no longer categorized them as a not-for-profit organization. This meant they were now subject to municipal taxation as a business.
Winning began the address by thanking council for providing the legion, just the week before, with a $1,000 “non-profit recovery grant” to help with the economic effects of the pandemic.
Parkinson presented mayor and council with federal tax records proving their not-for-profit status.
“We have recently received an invoice amending the tax payable for 2022, and a letter of explanation,” said Winning. “In the letter it states that the legion was excluded from the permissive tax exemption bylaw because we were granted a Liquor Primary license and were now open to the general public as a business. We have always been a business, with a building to maintain, staff to hire and manage, utilities and operational expenses to pay, PST and GST to file and pay… That did not change with acquiring a Liquor Primary license. It’s just that now, we are compliant with the liquor laws. Nothing else has changed.”
It was explained to council that indeed the organization hired staff to work in their facility, but no proprietor or shareholder benefited from profits. This is the legal definition of a not-for-profit organization. Having their pub-style dining and event hall was simply a social enterprise to serve the functions of the legion’s membership and generate income for the benevolent organization.
Social enterprises are a longstanding income stream permissible under not-for-profit law. Examples are thrift stores that support the work of healthcare auxiliaries, halls for rent by community associations, gift shops operated by arts councils that sell the work of local artisans, the Beacon Theatre operating under the auspices of the Lakes District Film Appreciation Society, and many more.
“We are run by volunteers and minimal staff,” Winning said. “Volunteering for the Royal Canadian Legion is a noble and rewarding endeavour, and not without its challenges. As a non-profit organization, the Legion relies on the dedication and hard work of volunteers to carry on its mission, and one of the challenges is the need to constantly recruit and retain volunteers…hence the need to open our doors to the public, instead of operating just as a club.”
All proceeds from revenues go back into legion programming and maintaining the structure, to continue the cycle of community support and giving, the delegation explained.
Donations from those proceeds have been recently provided to organizations like The Pines, Burns Lake Soccer Association, the army cadets, Lakes District Family Enhancement Society – The Link, Lakes District Secondary School grads, B.C. Ambulance Service, and more.
It is also home to many commemorative events like memorial services and birthday parties free of charge for members and a nominal fee for non-members.
“As a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting veterans, their families, preserving military history, and promoting patriotism, the Legion has played a vital role in our country for nearly a century,” Winning said. “We are the caretakers of remembrance and organize the Remembrance Day ceremonies annually.”
Mayor and council heard the presentation and promised to take their appeal under advisement.