Taxes can be intimidating at the best of times and outright stressful at the worst of times, and commercial options are not always readily available or affordable for people on a tight budget.
In an effort to alleviate the tax burden for Sundre and area residents, the Greenwood Neighbourhood Place (GNP) Society continues to offer the organization’s long-running community volunteer income tax program.
“We definitely are reaching a sector of the population that are maybe not going to get their taxes done because they cannot afford to pay” to have it done professionally in town or elsewhere, said Sari Werezak, the society’s office coordinator.
Last year, 264 returns were processed and filed for people who meet the eligibility criteria, which essentially stipulates that a client’s income situation be simple ó a T4 slip along with any another government forms to claim a variety of programs such as AISH or other income supports, she said.
Tax situations the program does not cover include deceased persons, self-employed individuals or bankruptcies, she told the Round Up.
“They’re trained to do simplistic returns ó anything complex we refer.”
While many seniors receive assistance, the program caters to anyone who falls within the income guidelines, which sometimes also includes students, she said.
“It’s such a great opportunity.”
Since the program started at the beginning of March, dedicated volunteers such as Jean Hague had helped process about 200 returns as of last week, said Werezak.
“It grows every year.”
Undaunted by tax forms, Hague said being able to guide people through the process is rewarding. Additionally, volunteering provides an opportunity to forge new friendships.
“I’ve volunteered most of my adult life. It’s rewarding for me, and I love to save people money,” she told the Round Up last week during an interview with her colleagues Joan Harris and Audrey Bressler at GNP’s boardroom.
None of them are strangers to investing time in their community, and all seem enthusiastic doing so.
“This is what keeps me young,” said Hague.
“It’s very rewarding at the end of the day when you know that you’ve actually helped people,” said Bressler.
Volunteers receive training, although they are not official representatives of the Canada Revenue Agency, and they are also required to undergo background checks because “we are handling sensitive information,” said Werezak.
The program is made possible fully through the volunteer efforts as GNP does not receive provincial funding. Although volunteers are not allowed to accept personal donations, anyone who so chooses can make a contribution to the society, she said.
Clients can drop off and at a later time pick up their tax papers. But anyone is welcome to sit down with the volunteers should he or she have any questions or an interest in learning how to file a return, she said.
“We do the return on the spot if the volunteer isn’t backlogged, so the client can wait to have their taxes e-filed that same day.”
Clinics run Monday to Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until April 26, but drop-offs will be accepted until the end of the month, she said.
“We’re very fortunate to have this. Not all communities offer it. It is certainly helping a lot of individuals and families.”
Werezak reminds residents to keep handy for seven years tax records such as the notice of assessment in case the Canada Revenue Agency gets in touch.
For more details about the community volunteer income tax program, call GNP’s office at 403-638-1011.