It is tax time again and there is a program being offered in town to help those with modest incomes file their taxes efficiently.
The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program has been running in Sylvan Lake for years and serves individuals, couples and families of modest income.
The income threshold for an individual is around $30,000, for a couple around $40,000, an individual with a dependent $35,000, if it’s more than one dependent an extra $2,500 is added on, said FCSS senior services coordinator Brittney Wells.
Volunteers help run the program and have been serving the same clients for years, but are willing to help new ones.
Tax returns are filed electronically. Volunteers use UFile through Canada Revenue Agencies (CRA).
Wells said the volunteers can do returns from 2008 to 2015. Taxes between 2008 and 2014 must be mailed in.
The program also does returns year around.
“The bulk of our returns come from the tax season, but we are able to do them all year,” Wells said. “That’s the big thing that people don’t know. If they are late doing their income tax, they can still bring it by and I am able to help them with it.”
Proving income level is not mandatory. Wells said many clients don’t remember to bring in their past income tax returns and the program does not keep their past returns on file.
“I will have a quick peek at their paperwork and if I can see that they are really high then I will send them other places like H&R Block,” Wells said.
She does consider their situation as well as their income.
Most are repeat clients, but the program does accept new clients, some who have been recommended to the program.
Clients will fill out and sign forms, drop off their tax information and wait for a phone call to be notified on when the volunteers have finished filing their information.
Wells said it takes about half an hour to process one tax return, with it being longer if a couple are doing it together.
The taxes processed by the volunteers have to be kept simple and basic.
Wells said they are able to process returns including student loans, taxes for newcomers, aboriginals, seniors, individuals and families.
“Most of our clients have one to five tax slips,” she said. “They are easy. “They are either RRSPs, investments, pensions or student loans.”
Some of the more complicated tax returns that the volunteers don’t do are returns for deceased people, self employed and bankruptcy.
“They are classified as a complicated return,” Wells said. “We try to serve everyone who fits into the criteria. I don’t send away a lot of individuals.”
Wells said their clients keep coming back to the program because it is free, as long as they fit the criteria. People don’t have to go to a business or try to do it online themselves when they have never done it before.
“People come to us because there are trained and qualified people doing their returns for them and it’s free,” Wells said.
She said people are unaware of how to do it themselves and it is easier for them to utilize the program because they know the program and service.
“We do have a lot of referrals from CRA telling them to come see us in Sylvan Lake because it is a free service,” Wells said.
The turn around time is usually around one or two weeks and volunteers process around 200-250 returns per year.
Clients are not just from Sylvan Lake but also come from nearby places such as Rocky Mountain House, Benalto, Eckville and Bentley.
“They know that Sylvan does this service so they keep on coming back,” Wells said. “It’s the same people helping them each year at the Sylvan Lake FCSS. They know us, they trust us,it’s easy and convenient for them.”
Wells gave tips on how clients can help the process run smoothly.
This includes the client ensuring that they have all their tax slips and going to their pharmacy for a print out of what they can claim medically instead of handing in a bunch of little slips. Dental receipts and hearing aids can also be claimed.
The office is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 12, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Clients need to see someone before they drop their tax return information off to fill out the paperwork.
For further information call 403 887 1137.