By Garrett Simmons
Family and Community Support Services
The Family and Community Support Services Community Volunteer Income Tax Program will look a little different this year.
In a normal year, those looking to access the program would be able to meet up with a volunteer, in-person and have their taxes done while they wait.
“We are offering assistance remotely, and we’re starting to do a drop-off service where we meet them and take their information and drop it off with one of our volunteers,” said Cindy Lauwen, FCSS Volunteer Services co-ordinator.
That drop-off service began March 8, as those interested in making an appointment can simply call or text Lauwen.
“We offer services to all of our communities, but most of our drop-off services are in Taber,” said Lauwen, who added arrangements can be made for pick-ups all across the FCSS service area.
Once those tax documents are received, volunteers pour over the files and within a week, the tax returns are filed electronically.
“The Canadian Revenue Agency does all the training for our volunteers,” said Lauwen, who added the four communityminded volunteers FCSS utilizes also spend hours watching webinars and reading handouts.
The income tax program is a partnership between the CRA and community organizations like FCSS, designed to prepare income tax and benefit returns for eligible individuals on modest incomes. It provides a simple tax situation at no cost.
“The tax clinics serve a wide-range of people,” said Lauwen, who added that includes people and families living on low incomes, newcomers to Canada, students, Indigenous peoples and seniors.
To get assistance through the program, a single person’s income must be below $35,000. The income limit for two people is $45,000 and $47,500 for a three-person family. For a family of four, the limit is $50,000, while the five-person limit is $52, 500. For families of more than five, total family income can’t exceed $52,500.
Lauwen added there are a few other restrictions in place through the program, as volunteers do not prepare tax returns for complex situations, including returns for deceased persons, individuals who file for bankruptcy or selfemployed individuals. Individuals who report capital gains or losses, individuals with interest income over $1,000, individuals who report employment expenses or business or rental income and expenses, are also not eligible.
The program, in place since 2017, has helped more and more people each year.
“Last year, we assisted 297 with their tax returns,” said Lauwen. “Every year we’ve done it, the program has grown, so I would expect the same this year – as word gets out.”
She added the program not only helps locals save money, by offering a free alternative to filing simple tax returns, but it also ensures people maximize their potential return.
“Filing on time keeps you from missing out on benefits such as Canada Child Benefit, Goods and Services Tax Credit or Guaranteed Income Supplement,” said Lauwen.
To book an appointment to access the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, call or text Lauwen at 403-915-7063. Low-German speakers looking to book an appointment can contact Susie Peters at 403-593-0618.