BROOKFIELD - The volunteer-based Brookfield Fire Department has received a demand notice from Revenue Canada to pay a $500,000 fine by March 21 or face legal action.
“We’ve come to the point where we have until the 21st because they’ve called for collection,” Fire Chief Rod Nielsen said when questioned by the Truro Daily News on the issue.
Nielsen said the problem with Revenue Canada arose in 2008 after the department accidently let its charitable status lapse when its treasurer was “very ill.”
He said the responsibility for the problem is
“basically 100 per cent mine” but by the time the issue came to his attention, however, it was too late to easily correct.
After the charitable status had lapsed, he said, the department was no longer eligible because it does not give away 80 per cent of its income.
“We use it for operating and administration,” he said of the department’s revenue, of which about 90 per cent is generated through municipal taxes.
“They said we no longer qualify,” he said. “When it lapsed we went to reapply and they told us we were no longer eligible.”
After initially communicating with Revenue Canada, Nielsen said he thought they had found a “loophole or gap” that allowed for organizations such as a fire department to work around the charitable designation.
“At one time we thought it was a done deal,” he said, of resolving the issue. “I thought it had disappeared.”
Despite the looming deadline, Nielsen said, he has been working with Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong to resolve the issue. He has not given up hope of finding a solution, by reapplying for charitable status and being reassessed by Revenue Canada.
“I’m always concerned but I don’t think it’s a likely thing,” he said, that the department will be forced to pay the $500,000 or have its assets seized.
And he also said he understands Revenue Canada’s position on the matter regarding its charitable designations.
“Basically they want to prevent any charitable organization from forming and then walking away with the money.”