Community tax return program offering free assistance

A group of volunteers is eagerly waiting for the tax season to arrive so they can help people properly file basic tax forms.

A group of volunteers is eagerly waiting for the tax season to arrive so they can help people properly file basic tax forms.

The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, run through Sylvan Lake FCSS (Family and Community Support Services), offers assistance in completing income tax and benefit returns to those who are unable to do so themselves, or who cannot afford to pay for such assistance elsewhere.

Only basic forms such as T4 slips and medical receipts can be filed through the program. More complicated cases such as filing for deceased people or home-based businesses aren’t covered.

“It’s awesome to see all the returns done for free,” said program co-ordinator Brittney Wells. “I think people need to be aware of our program because (tax preparation companies) are pretty expensive, and when you don’t have much money, it’s stressful.”

About 120 tax slips were received through the program last year. Each one takes about 20 minutes to complete, and is done by trained volunteers — more of which can always be used, according to Wells.

Helping out, she feels, is beneficial to both volunteers and the people they serve, and can result in a number of long-term benefits.

“It’s rewarding for them (volunteers), and they get experience with CRA (Canada Revenue Agency),” she said. “If they help out in Sylvan Lake, they can help out anywhere in the province too. The volunteer doesn’t have to stay in Sylvan Lake, and they can do it for many more years like the majority of the volunteers have been.”

Potential volunteers are encouraged to apply by mid-January, to allow for time to complete a criminal record check and training.

More information on the program and volunteering is available by contacting Sylvan Lake FCSS at 403-887-1137.