Taxes and benefits for Indigenous Peoples

What Indigenous Peoples should know about the tax return they send to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and how that return can result in various benefit payments.

Terminology from the Indian Act

The term "Indian" is sometimes used because it has legal meaning in the Indian Act.

On this page

What is tax exemption and who is eligible

First Nations entitled to Indian Status

If you have personal property, including income, situated on a reserve, that property is exempt from tax under section 87 of the Indian Act. Contact your local band office to find out if a tract of land is a reserve for purposes of this exemption. If your band is not certain about the status of the land, contact Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

Determine if you live on Indigenous government lands

What is tax-exempt income

Under Section 87 of the Indian Act, employment income is considered tax-exempt in certain circumstances.

Whether your employment income is taxed or not is based on:

  • If you are registered or entitled to be registered under the Indian Act
  • Where you live
  • Where your employer is located
  • Where your work is done

To learn more about tax-exempt income, visit Information on the tax exemption under section 87 of the Indian Act and Indian Act Exemption for Employment Income Guidelines.

Don't forget to file a T90 form to calculate your net exempt income if all of the following apply:

  • You are registered or entitled to be registered under the Indian Act
  • You have income that is exempt from tax under the Indian Act

Doing your taxes has benefits. If you want to take advantage of these benefits, you should do your taxes every year, even if you had no income or if your income was tax-exempt.

Receiving benefits and credits

All Canadians have access to the same benefits and credits.

To receive benefits and credits from the CRA, you must have filed your tax returns, even if your income is tax exempt or you had no income at all. This includes your spouse or common-law partner. The CRA needs this information to calculate your payments.

Some of these benefits and credits include:

  • Canada child benefit (CCB)
  • Child disability benefit
  • Goods and services tax/Harmonized sales tax credit (GST/HST)
  • Disability tax credit
  • Northern residents deduction
  • Canada workers benefit
  • Canada training credit
  • Climate action incentive

For details:

Situations that may occur

Some changes affect your access to benefits and credits.

Should your circumstances change

Disability Tax Credit

Tax credits and deductions are available for persons with disabilities, their supporting family members, and their caregivers

Some of the disability credits and deductions include:

  • Disability tax credit
    • A non-refundable tax credit that helps persons with disabilities or their supporting persons reduce the amount of income tax they may have to pay. An individual may claim the disability amount once they are eligible for the DTC. This amount includes a supplement for persons under 18 years of age at the end of the year.
  • Medical expenses
    • You can claim medical expenses on your tax return.
  • Disability supports deduction
    • You could deduct expenses for items that helped you with work, go to school, or do research where you received a grant.
  • Child disability benefit
    • Find out if you are eligible for the tax-free monthly payments, these are in addition to the Canada child benefit
  • Registered disability savings plan
    • Find out how the RDSP can help you save for the long term financial security of a person who is eligible for the Disability tax credit.

Marital status

Update your marital status including if you’re living in a common-law relationship. We’ll recalculate your payments to account for your new marital status and your new family net income.

Some changes based on marital status include:

  • GST/HST credit
    • instead of each adult receiving a separate amount, the couple receives a single amount
  • Canada child benefit
    • the benefit amount depends on the number of children in your care and the new family net income is used to calculate the benefit amount
  • Child disability benefit
    • the new family net income is used to calculate the benefit amount
  • Canada workers benefit
    • the new family net income is used to calculate the benefit amount

Children in your care

Update the number of children in your care if a child starts living with you, you start sharing custody of a child, or a child is no longer in your care.

Some changes based on the number of children in your care include:

  • GST/HST credit
    • the benefit amount depends on the number of children in your care
  • Canada child benefit
    • the benefit amount depends on the number of children in your care and the new family net income is used to calculate the benefit amount
  • Child disability benefit
    • the new family net income is used to calculate the benefit amount

Address

Update your address if you change your primary residence, to make sure your benefit and credit payments don’t stop.

Uncashed cheques

There are many reasons people in Canada may have an uncashed cheque from the CRA, for example if you move and do not update your address. To see if you have an uncashed CRA cheque sign into or register for MyAccount.

For more information, go to uncashed cheques from the CRA.

Direct deposit banking details

Direct deposit is a fast, convenient, reliable, and secure way to get your CRA payments directly into your account at a financial institution in Canada. For more information and ways to enrol, go to direct deposit or contact your financial institution.

Your workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic may have caused changes to your workplace.

You may have been required to work off-reserve because of workplace restrictions. Find out if your income is still exempt despite changes to your situation.

CRA and COVID-19 - Indigenous income tax issues

If you live on a reserve and were required to work from home, your employment income could now be fully or partly exempt from tax under section 87.

Information on the tax exemption under section 87 of the Indian Act

You may also be eligible to claim home office expenses if you are working from home.

If you receive a letter or message from the CRA

It’s important to read these communications carefully. We might ask you to provide more information or documentation to confirm that you’re eligible for a benefit or credit. For example, we may ask you to confirm that you are the primary caregiver for children in your care.

Documents that may be requested to confirm your details

Your benefits may stop if you don’t reply and provide all the information requested. If you do not have the documents or need some extra time to gather them, contact the CRA. Be sure to consider:

  • what benefit the letter or message is about (for example, the CCB)?
  • what eligibility criteria the letter or message is asking you to validate (for example, proof of dependents)
  • what information or documents the message or letter says you can send
  • how the message or letter says you should send this information or documents (mail, fax or online)

Documents you can be use for validation

Submitting your documents

For more information

Find out how to recognize messages from the CRA: Scam prevention and the CRA.

Need help or support

Jordan’s Principle

Jordan’s Principle supports First Nations children living in Canada with access to the products and services they need. They provide funding that helps with a wide range of health, social, and educational needs.

For details: Jordan’s Principle

Inuit Child First Initiative

The Inuit Child First Initiative ensures Inuit children have access to the essential government funded health, social and educational products, services and supports they need, when they need them.

For details: Supporting Inuit Children

Get help to do your tax returns

Some easy options to file your tax return:

Use a simplified paper tax return

Indigenous peoples may use the simplified paper tax return form:

  • "Simple File: Let us help you get your benefits!" Credit and benefit short return

This return is not available to download. Get this return by contacting one of your:

  • Local friendship centres
  • Community representatives
  • Band council offices
  • Northern Service Centres

For details: "Simple File: Let us help you get your benefits!" Credit and benefit short return

File your tax return online

File your tax return online with 1 of the certified tax software products.

They are easy to use, fast, secure, and some are free.

Free tax help

File for free using 1 of the following services:

You can also contact your band office for information on free tax clinics offered in, or near, your community.

Northern Service Centres (northern residents)

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) created the Northern Service Centres to provide a year-round presence to support individuals and businesses in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Employees operating from the Northern Service Centres deliver various services to individuals and community organizations and assist small businesses and self-employed individuals schedule either virtual or in-person visits with a Liaison Officer.

Liaison officer service (small business owners and self-employed individuals)

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers a free personalized support to owners of small businesses and self-employed individuals. The Liaison Officer service is available across Canada to help you understand your business tax obligations. A visit from a liaison officer is 100% confidential; the information you choose to discuss with a liaison officer will not be shared with other areas of the CRA, or anyone else.

More help for filing your tax return

COVID-19 related benefits

COVID-19 benefits provided temporary income support to individuals who were directly affected by the pandemic and are generally taxable. If some or all of your income is exempt from tax under section 87 of the Indian Act, this will affect the taxability of the benefits.

If you received benefit payments that you were not eligible for, you may need to return the full amount you received.

For details:

Employment opportunities

At the CRA, our diverse workforce and inclusive workplace foster innovation and drive us to be a world-class tax and benefit administration. We are consistently recognized as one of Canada's top 100 employers.

For all employment information, refer to: Careers at the CRA

Forms and guides

Terminology from the Indian Act

The term "Indian" is sometimes used because it has legal meaning in the Indian Act.

Common guides

For individuals:

For employers:

For self-employed individuals:

Common forms

Employment income:

GST returns:

CPP:

For all products, refer to: Forms and publications

Upcoming learning events

View and register for upcoming national outreach events

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