AMHERST – Each year a small group of volunteers comes together at tax time to help seniors and low-income families complete their income tax returns.
Supported by the Canada Revenue Agency, and locally by the Amherst Rotary Club, the volunteer-run tax preparation program works with people who are not able to prepare their income tax returns to make sure they submit a return and receive the associated benefits.
“There are a lot of great people who help us with this program,” Pat Olmstead of the Canada Revenue Agency told Rotarians. “The program has been around for 43 years and it’s getting more important every year, especially this year when the CRA is not sending out as much information.”
Olmstead said the department is not sending out tax returns in the mail to individual Canadians. Instead, they can be picked up at the post office, Service Canada or by contacting the revenue agency directly.
Because of this there’s a fear some people may not file tax returns, especially those who have mobility challenges and need to file a tax return to get benefits such as the GST credit and the guaranteed income supplement.
“There is a whole generation of people who have done nothing but paper returns. If it’s not mailed to them sometimes it gets inconvenient to go to the post office. Some of these people may be looking for a reason not to file a return,” she said. “We’re hoping a lot of these people will take part in the volunteer program.”
Through the community volunteer income tax program, representatives of the revenue agency are training community volunteers to help people complete their tax returns.
The program is for people with a low income. The cap is $30,000 in income for individuals and $35,000 for families and single-parent families.
“Our volunteers are amazing because they not only do people’s tax returns, but they also help determine if people should apply for things like the disability tax credit. There are a lot of people out there who don’t know about the credits and exemptions that are available to them. It makes a huge difference in their tax return.”
About 400 volunteers annually do about 15,000 returns provincewide. In Amherst, between 300 to 400 returns are done by community volunteers, assisted by members of the Amherst Rotary Club.
During March and April, volunteers will be working on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Cumberland YMCA. People can make appointments at the Y for the tax clinics, while volunteers will also be providing services for nursing home residents and shut-ins.