Nova Scotia

CRA needs volunteers in N.S. for program that helps people file tax returns

The Canada Revenue Agency is looking for volunteers for a program that completes simple tax returns for people with modest incomes. The demand was so great in Nova Scotia last year that people who needed help completing their returns were turned away.

33,000 Nova Scotians with modest incomes had their taxes completed last year through free CRA program

The federal government trains volunteers to use a simple program that processes tax claims for people and families with modest incomes.

The federal government is on an urgent search for more volunteers to help with a program that completes free tax returns for people with modest incomes, after it was forced to turn some families away in Nova Scotia last year.

The Canada Revenue Agency is willing to train people who want to complete simple tax returns, even if they're only available to help for one day out of the entire tax season.

"The reason for the urgent need is we don't want to miss anybody," said CRA spokesperson Dawn Kennedy.

"We don't know in advance how many people are going to show up. Sometimes, there is a long wait time and sometimes we aren't able to reach everybody right away."

The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program helps people with modest incomes, which is defined by different income levels and depends on the size of the family. A family of four earning $50,000 or less would qualify, as long as they have a simple tax return.

The Brunswick Street Mission in Halifax is one of only a few locations in the province that processes tax claims year-round. Some of its clients are owed 10 years worth of refunds. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

CRA places volunteers in community centres, churches and libraries across the country. 

Last year, 33,000 Nova Scotians took advantage of the service.

In Halifax, the Brunswick Street Mission has been offering free tax help for 10 years. They realized the need when they discovered a man staying at the shelter didn't have a social insurance number.

"When he was in a position to get his life in order, he couldn't move forward," said Sandra Nicholas, the executive director. "He just didn't exist."

A person who worked in the tax program offered to drop by and help as a favour. The next year, three more people came forward to ask for help.

Huge demand for program at Brunswick Street Mission

Now, they process about 1,000 tax returns a year.

"The more we did it, the more people heard [about it] and the more we realized there's huge numbers of people out there who can't access programs," said Nicholas.

Those programs range from social assistance to the child tax credit. Nicholas said processing some of these claims can be life changing for the clients. She said they regularly encounter people who are owed up to 10 years of tax refunds.

The Brunswick Street Mission is one of only a few clinics that stays open year-round. Nicholas believes that makes the program even more valuable.

"People who, for whatever reason, weren't able to or didn't realize they would have to do their tax return were suddenly finding out at very inconvenient times for them because there was no one able to help them," she said.

Where CRA needs volunteers

Kennedy said CRA is looking for help in every corner of the province, especially in the Halifax Regional Municipality, Yarmouth and Sydney.

Volunteers don't have to have any experience with taxes because training is provided. They can also set their own hours.

"You might think that one day is not enough to sign up for, but you might get four or five or more tax returns done," said Kennedy. "That's those families that you've helped, just by giving that one day."

MORE TOP STORIES

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.