For someone like Maggie, tax time would beget a financial hardship, not from how much she owes the government but just from paying someone to help her with her return.
“I would be scrambling to pay,” she said.
The 73-year-old woman (who declined to provide a last name) praises the Community Information and Volunteer Centre, especially at tax time. A customer of the agency’s free income tax program for three years in a row now, she describes it in just one word: “Wonderful.”
The CIVC provides the service for St. Albert and area seniors, people with disabilities and low-income residents every March and April, up until the last day that 2009 returns are accepted. The program is free, but that doesn’t mean the work is substandard.
The volunteers that do [these tax returns]do a fabulous job, she exclaimed.
Vivian Leland, the co-ordinator of the tax program, reinforces the high quality of the service, stating that each volunteer is trained by the Canada Revenue Agency and is “well-experienced” in handling returns. Since 1998, the CIVC has been offering this service that helps hundreds of people get through this otherwise stressful time.
When [the CIVC]started it, there was another agency in St. Albert preparing taxes but I think people were trying the seniors centre, they were going to lodge, but they just couldnt get there. We had one stationary place when they couldnt do the taxes any more. As a volunteer centre, we decided to take it on.
She balked at the notion St. Albert is a wealthy community and this free service is unnecessary. St. Albert has plenty of low-income people who can’t afford to get their taxes done for $80 or $100.
“There may be a lot of rich people here but there’s a lot of people that need services as well. When you look at all the issues in St. Albert of getting people into appointments in Edmonton, there’s only a few agencies able to do that.”
The tax program has some restrictions. While applicants must fit the income criteria, they cannot have capital gains or losses, employment expenses, or business or rental income or expenses, or interest income that exceeds $1,000. The return also cannot include income from deceased or bankrupt individuals.
Starting with 88 clients in its first year, the tax program is expected to help close to 300 before April 30, Leland said.
“It’s been growing every year and we will continue to do it. Everyone knows that the Community Information and Volunteer Centre is the agency that does taxes.”
While the majority of the clients are seniors who don’t have small children at home, Leland reminded people to take advantage of the new Home Renovation Tax Credit and the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit.