Volunteer program helps low-income earners file their taxes free of charge

A volunteer income-tax program in Halifax helps low-income earners file their taxes free of charge. Jesse Thomas/Global News

Tax season is here and it’s a busy time for accountants.

For individuals, tax season and the task of filing your paperwork can come at a cost and can be a stress for some who seek to do it alone.

But there’s help for those who qualify for a free tax program being offered across Canada, including locations in Halifax and Dartmouth.

For close to 40 years now, the Canada Revenue Agency has been partnering with community agencies and volunteers to help low-income families and individuals get their federal income taxes done free of charge.

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It’s called the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) and it’s for individuals who make less than $35,000 a year. Those eligible can get their taxes done for free, but the program also applies to a two-person family with a combined income below $45,000.

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“A lot of people might be missing out on credits and benefits so it’s really important to file your tax return and these volunteers can help you do that,” said Ashley Clarke-Kelloway, communications manager with Canada Revenue Agency.

“To ensure that you get your Canada child benefit, for example, your GST, HST credit. You can’t get those without filing so it’s very important to file your return.”

The program’s motto is “people helping people,” as it’s volunteer-led by individuals like Heidi Taylor, a retired university administrator and self-proclaimed “numbers geek” who always enjoyed balancing her own books and helping others.

“None of us are accounting professionals, that’s why the program limits the sort of tax returns we do, to the straightforward sort of thing,” said Taylor.

She is the lead volunteer at the tax clinic that runs each Wednesday during the month of April from 10 a.m. to noon at the Halifax Central Library.

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The volunteers try to create a friendly and inviting atmosphere, which Taylor says helps the process go smoothly but also guides the individuals through the process of filing their taxes and gives them the understanding of how to complete their taxes for themselves in the future.

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“In many ways, it’s a doorway to understanding what the tax system is all about,” said Taylor.

“It’s that aspect of not just handing in the paperwork and having somebody do it for you but having the opportunity to ask questions and to find out what all this means.”

There are free tax clinics operating at locations across Halifax and Dartmouth. To find a location nearest you, visit the CRA’s free tax clinic website for more information.

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