Are you already dreading the yearly ordeal of filing your personal income tax return? If you’re a qualifying single person or family in the area, then the Community Income Tax Volunteers are here to help you with paperwork, forms, filing, refunds, and more.
The local volunteers are part of the nation-wide Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), which is sponsored by the Canada Revenue Agency and provides training and software to help volunteers across Canada assist others in preparing their income tax returns. The service was started in Ashcroft by Gordon Berdan more than 40 years ago, and is available at no cost to any single person with a net income of less than $35,000 per year, or to couples/families who jointly earn less than $45,000 per year net, regardless of their age.
Qualifying students, seniors, First Nations, and low-income earners can all make use of the service, which is for residents of Spences Bridge, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Walhachin, Savona, Clinton, the Ashcroft Indian Band, the Bonaparte Band, and surrounding areas.
Vivian Edwards, the Ashcroft program coordinator, says that the volunteers have a little bit of wiggle room when it comes to the income thresholds. However, she adds that the program is for low income people, and that they do not want to take away clients who can afford to pay a professional to help them prepare their returns.
Edwards also notes that the volunteers—who are not professionals—do not take complicated tax returns, as they do not have the expertise to deal with things such as capital gains. The service is intended for people whose tax returns are relatively basic, but who may not be willing or able to tackle doing them on their own, and for whom the cost of having them prepared by someone else might be prohibitive.
Participants bring all relevant paperwork and receipts to the volunteers, who prepare the return and file it electronically, usually within a day. Refunds are usually received within two weeks.
If a client does have to pay some income tax, they are asked to bring in receipts for any medical expenses such as prescriptions, glasses, hearing aids, walkers, and more, as well as information regarding any trips they have taken for out-of-town medical appointments and procedures (date of the appointment, the doctor’s name, what they were being treated for, meals and accommodation if applicable), as these expenses can often reduce the amount of income tax a person has to pay.
Those assisting with preparing the returns receive no remuneration, and get no money from the CRA for such things as office rental or stationery supplies. Each year between 200 and 250 local residents make use of the service.
This year the tax volunteers will once again be based in area libraries. Vivian Edwards, Shirley Holowchuk, Chris Webster, Shirlee Johnson, Maryann Simpson, and Dave Gory will be splitting their time at the Ashcroft Library every Friday (noon to 2 p.m.) from March 6 to May 1 inclusive (please use the entrance at the side of the library on 2nd Street), and at the Cache Creek Library every Tuesday (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) from March 3 to April 28 inclusive.
John White and Yvette May will be at the Clinton Library every Saturday (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) from March 7 to April 25 inclusive, and Joanne McDaniels will be at the Savona Library every Wednesday (1 to 2:30 p.m.) from March 4 to April 29 inclusive.
The service is a drop-in one, on a first-come, first-served basis, and as the first two sessions are usually very busy, people might need to wait. After that, however, things quiet down, and there might be little or no wait time. People are asked not to bring paperwork to drop off when the volunteers are not there, as library staff will not be able to accept it.
For more information, call Vivian Edwards at (250) 453-9077.