Angelica de Groot has a self-professed fondness for filling out tax returns and uses her bookkeeping skills for the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.

Angelica de Groot has a self-professed fondness for filling out tax returns and uses her bookkeeping skills for the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.

Free tax preparation offered in Greater Trail

Local volunteers are offering free tax return assistance for low income families.

It’s that taxing time of year again.

By April 30, Canadians will spend between $4 billion and $5.8 billion preparing and filing personal income tax returns, with the average cost per person being $215, according to a study by the Fraser Institute.

In Greater Trail, low income families and individuals won’t have to worry about losing a portion of their tax return to processing fees, because community volunteers have their pencils sharpened and calculators ready to prepare those returns for free.

The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program is a collaboration between the Canada Revenue Agency and local organizations with an objective to help eligible taxpayers who don’t know how to prepare their income tax and benefit returns.

To qualify for the free service, individual income must be under $30,000; family earnings less than $40,000; and for a single parent with one child, $35,000 with $2,500 allowed for each additional child.

“This is a service that is very beneficial for people in our area who cannot afford to pay for a tax return,” explained volunteer Angelica de Groot. “Even if the cost is $50 or $60, that is a lot of money and hard to pay if you are low income.”

Trail has provided the service for a number of years and has been well utilized, noted de Groot, adding that since setting up shop in Fruitvale three years ago, the free program has continued to grow.

This year, the volunteers are heading up the hill to offer their service once per week in Rossland until the end of tax season.

Five tax preparation clinics are planned to run weekly until April 30, starting in the Trail Seniors’ Centre (Greater Trail Community Centre) Mondays from 9-11 a.m.; Tuesday at Kate’s Kitchen on Rossland Avenue from 9:30-11:30 a.m.; and Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. in Trail FAIR Society building on Columbia Avenue.

On Thursdays, the program moves to Beaver Valley Senior Citizens Manor on Laurier Avenue in Fruitvale from 9-11 a.m., then every Friday to the end of the tax season, volunteers will be on site in Rossland at Esling Park Lodge on Spokane Street from 9-11 a.m.

People accessing the program are asked to bring all slips including T3s, T4s, T5s and receipts for medical expenses, child arts or recreational programs, and charitable donations.

All information is confidential and once the tax return is electronically filed, the computers are wiped clean, said de Groot.

“Even if the service was used last year, that information is not kept,” she continued. “So if they have last year’s notice of assessment of tax forms, that is a help so bring it in.”

Usually people who are low income do not pay income taxes, but filing a return provides access to certain benefits that can add up to more than $100 a month, such as GST credit, Canada Child Tax Benefit payments, Guaranteed Income Supplement or Allowance benefits.

“All those kinds of benefits you would be missing out on if you don’t file your taxes,” said de Groot.

“And we do go back in years for taxes that weren’t filed because some benefits allow you to collect retroactively.”

For more information contact the Trail FAIR Society at 364.2326.