The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program launches March 2 and runs until April 30. Visit the Trail Times website at trailtimes.ca and click on calendar for locations

The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program launches March 2 and runs until April 30. Visit the Trail Times website at trailtimes.ca and click on calendar for locations

Free tax preparation offered locally for low income earners

Seniors, students and low income earners take note – number crunchers have pencils sharpened, ready to do your taxes for free.

Seniors, students and low income earners take note – number crunchers have pencils sharpened, ready to do your taxes for free.

The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) is a collaboration between the Canada Revenue Agency and local organizations with an objective to help eligible taxpayers who need help preparing and filing 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 individual child.

In Greater Trail, the CVITP service has been running for about a decade, and over that period, saved countless individual and families from losing a portion of their tax return to processing fees.

“I chose to volunteer for the program because there are a lot of people who don’t have the money to pay to have their returns done,” says Elaine Jones, four-year CVITP member.

“It could be $60 bucks, which might not sound like a huge fee, but they just don’t have it.”

The steady stream of people accessing the program grows longer each year, as word about the free tax service spreads.

“Last year, I did 100 returns,” Jones said. “Another volunteer did 100, and the other three volunteers each did 35. So we are doing quite a few as the message gets out.”

Jones maintains that often low income earners, and people on assistance, don’t feel empowered to file a yearly tax return. That outlook is changing somewhat, she explained, because if the annual income tax forms are not filed, then the person won’t receive benefits such as G.S.T. and climate control rebate cheques, a guaranteed income supplement, or child tax benefits.

“I have the program back to 2005,” she noted. “So if anybody comes in with eight or even 10 years of taxes, I can do that for them. I can get them all caught up so they can start receiving the rebate cheques they are entitled to.”

From March 2 to April 30, free tax clinics will run five days a week from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m,. throughout Greater Trail, starting with the Trail Senior’s Centre (Greater Trail Community Centre) on Mondays; Tuesday at Kate’s Kitchen on Rossland Ave.; and Wednesdays at the Trail FAIR Society on Columbia Ave.

The program then moves to the Beaver Valley Manor on Laurier Ave. in Fruitvale on Thursdays, then every Friday, volunteers will be on site in Rossland at the Esling Park Lodge on Spokane Street.

People accessing the program are asked to bring all slips including T3s, T4s, T5s and receipts for medical expenses, child arts and recreational programs, charitable donations, as well as a copy of the previous year’s return.

All information is confidential and once the tax return is electronically filed, the computers are wiped clean (information is not stored year-to-year). Interviews are on a first-come-first-serve basis.

For more information, visit the Trail Times website, trailtimes.ca and click on the calendar link for a listing of dates, times, and contact information for the program.

In the Nelson area, the Nelson and District Seniors Coordinating Society runs the program year round with appointment or by drop-off at 719 Vernon Street on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. until noon. For information call 250.352.6008, email sencoord@netidea.com, or visit the Canada Revenue website at cra-arc.gc.ca.

Persons with investment income well in excess of $1,000, capital gains/losses, partnership income, rental income, business or professional income, farming or fishing income, or anyone with complex deductions may be deemed ineligible for this service.

Additionally, CVITP is unable to prepare final returns for deceased persons, and other limitations may apply.

By the last day of tax season, 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.