We may be moving towards an increasingly paperless society in which – at this time of year – e-filing tax returns is commonplace.
However, on Wednesday at the Salvation Army location, Paul Raines is happy to be amid piles of paper, helping seniors and others with low earnings – and lots of questions – fill out their income tax returns. Raines is one of 16,000 volunteers in Canada who annually support the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP).
“When I retired from teaching 10 years ago (he was a principal and vice-principal for School District 57 for several years) I decided I wanted to do only things I really enjoyed so that meant working with the Special Olympics, coaching my favourite sport, lacrosse, and I wanted to do this (tax returns for people.). I had the accounting background and I think it’s nice to help people,” said Raines.
He likes volunteering and helping people and notes the CVITP program is a very necessary service because those on low incomes can’t afford to pay to get their taxes done – and so might put off filing their income taxes – often, people aren’t even aware of some of the tax “breaks” or savings incentives for which they are eligible.
“Some people don’t know they can get the guaranteed income supplements for seniors (over 65 years of age) or even that they need to apply for old age security pensions.
“I work at AiMHi (Prince George Association for Community Living) as well and one of the rewards for me in doing this is being able to tell people what they are entitled to when it comes to things like disability tax credits and government savings plans they can enrol in.”
At the Salvation Army location, Raines says he and two other volunteers have completed between 80 and 100 tax returns in the past month.
Since he began with the program in 2005, Raines has worked at several other locations around Prince George. He encourages people to check and find out what locations are nearest for them. The deadline is April 30 to file income tax with the community-based outreach program. There are income restrictions, ($30,000 maximum for single people, $40,000 for a couple, etc.).
Also the tax returns must be “straight forward.”
“We are all trained by Revenue Canada through webinars that teach us about tax returns and any particular things we need to know about tax exemptions of rules that apply to groups like seniors, First Nations and new Canadians.”
The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program has been in existence since 1971 and Canadians have volunteered their time and effort individually or while working with organizations to help people in their communities.
To date they have filed over 600,000 tax returns for people and helped by preserving benefits and other financial entitlements for filers as well as providing peace of mind for individuals in meeting their tax filing obligations.
The objective of the program is to help eligible individuals who are not able to prepare their income tax and benefit returns by themselves.
A listing of all volunteer tax preparation clinics in the Prince George area can be found on the Canada Revenue Agency website at the following link: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/vlntr/clncs/princegeorge-bc-eng.html.