How to Prepare the Project

Free Income Tax Return Clinic

It is possible, early in the tax season with volunteers, to help individuals with incomes less than $30,000 to save money on their tax returns. Since the CRA, as of tax year 2013, has provided easy-to-use programs free of charge to all taxpayers for filing online, some of the people who will visit a conference's tax service will be interested in learning how to do it for themselves and their family members. The cost of hiring a professional to prepare even a simple return is skyrocketing and filing online with a volunteer assures the client of a swift refund, of uninterrupted monthly Trillium benefits, and of quarterly GST rebates paid automatically into their bank account, thus helping them to budget their family resources and to avoid regular use of food banks.

When first starting out it is a good idea to work through the CVITP (Community Volunteer Income Tax Preparation) program of Canada Revenue—they will even help you to find volunteers. Their training, which is not complicated, is available online but it is a good idea to have a local person who has experience in tax preparation to coordinate the volunteers' training and scheduling. He/she need not be a Vincentian, as the program takes care of confidentiality and other issues related to dealing with vulnerable people.

In our case we partnered with the South Essex Community Council our first year, used their office and computers and filed for 80 people in eight 2 and ½ hour clinics with eight volunteers and 2 computers.
Last year we went out on our own, using the community-use room of the local library and again in eight sessions did 100 returns with 4 laptop computers, 6 tax preparers (some professionals but not all) and 10 other volunteers to interview clients to put their documents in order. Our first year we scheduled appointments, and last year we had drop in clinics. Only 2 in the group were members of the Society. The library did not have enough broadband or we could have done more. Next March through networking with parishioners, we have a better site with the local school board's employment assessment centre. A printer has been donated. We're hoping to do a bit of teaching around financial literacy and self tax preparation.

Our coordinator has prepared a number of forms to keep everything organized and we are of course willing to share these with any conference getting started. We recommend lining up volunteers in the fall (our first contact with CVITP coordinator for Ontario was first week of October) and beginning meetings for training and scheduling purposes no later than January.

Submitted by Catherine St Pierre, President
St. John de Brebeuf Conference
Kingsville, ON