Community assistance for low income taxpayers
Three Fernie volunteers are getting ready to help low income individuals and families file their 2013 taxes. Throughout the months of March and April they will offer drop-in sessions in town to assist and prepare tax returns for those eligible under the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.
Run through the Canada Revenue Agency for about 40 years, the program is designed to assist taxpayers who have a low to modest income and a simple tax situation.
Volunteer Cindy Corrigan explained they tend to work with two different groups of people; younger people who need help working through a computer based tax program, and seniors who require general assistance.
“What we do when we work with our younger people is help them understand what they're doing so that they can take it on themselves and make sure that they're doing it right. With a [computer] program it's really easy, but I think it's important that you understand the process you're going through,” said Corrigan. “Then there are people in this day and age who still don't have computers. So they don't have the ability to hook on to a program, and a lot of our seniors are overwhelmed by the whole notion of filing their income tax.”
To be eligible to participate, an individual must have an income that does not exceed $30,000, or $40,000 for a couple. For one adult with a child, the maximum income is $35,000. Eligible taxpayers who generally utilize the program include seniors, students, social assistance recipients, aboriginals, and newcomers to Canada. The volunteers are not able to prepare complex returns, such as returns for people who are self-employed, have capital gains or losses, and have business or rental income or expenses.
“One of the real benefits of the program is to ensure that people get the credits they are entitled to,” commented Corrigan. “Things like the GST credit, the B.C. sales tax credit. We want to make sure that our seniors are hanging on to their guaranteed income supplement, as well as any kind of assistance that they can get with B.C. Medical premiums.
“It's wide ranging and it's really important that people file their income tax so that they can get these things. I always worry about our low income people because if they're not filing, they're losing out on all kinds of tax incentives.”
The program is run on a drop-in basis and although it is based out of Fernie, anyone from the Elk Valley or South Country is welcome.
“It is a program that has been in the community for a long time and we're always looking for volunteers,” said Corrigan. “It's a great program. I think over the years, between the three of us, we've probably been able to help in excess of 100 people each year.”
The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program will run at the following times and locations during March and April: At the Senior's Drop In Centre on Wednesdays from 10 am to 1 pm. At the Fernie Library on Fridays from 1 to 4 pm and Saturdays from 12 to 3 pm.