Getting your taxes done is a daunting task at the best of times. For those in a lower income bracket it can be pricey and difficult, particularly if you don’t have a computer at home.
Fortunately, several volunteers offered free income tax clinics for those people with modest incomes through a provincial government program. The clinics were run out of Grand Forks, Greenwood and Christina Lake.
“We do income tax paperwork for modest income families which tends to be senior citizens and people on social assistance,” said Karen Johnson, one of the volunteers. “Anyone with a modest income. They come and drop off their income tax information. They fill out a form giving us permission to do it. We then take the paperwork home, do the paperwork, then file it for them electronically.”
Johnson said it usually takes about a week or two and then the person will be notified and they have to come down and pick up the completed paperwork and confirmation that it has been sent.
Johnson said she and partner Karen Head have completed about 100 returns this year at their work space in the Phoenix Room at the ServiceBC centre in Grand Forks. All the clinics combined have produced 180 completed returns, up from 100 last year.
Lorraine Dick is involved with the program as the head organizer.
The program is in its fourth year and has increased the number of clients each year.
“We started with one location and now this year we’ve had four locations and volunteers in three towns,” said Dick. “I can’t imagine working without the Karens. They run the ship.”
Also helping out this year were Jennifer Jenkins at Christina Lake, Ursula Flury at Gospel Chapel, and Ardy Jones at Greenwood.
Not only do the two Karens fill out current returns, they say they’ve even filled out returns for people back to 2010. Johnson said many of their clients don’t have computers and she said it’s not easy doing the forms by hand.
“If they don’t file their taxes, they don’t get their GST benefits, they don’t get their MSP benefits—a lot of benefits because they’ve dropped off the grid,” said Johnson. “If they’re on some sort of disability, that all stops if they haven’t filed their income tax.”
Johnson said that ServiceBC was great in providing space for the service as well as paper and other much needed extras such as photocopying.
“Every little bit helps us as volunteers keep it going, because it all comes out of pocket,” she said.
Neither of the ladies had any backgrounds in bookkeeping nor accounting before signing up four years ago.
“I came to a training session,” said Head. “I wanted to help.”
Johnson said the sessions were very beneficial. She added that the government provides appropriate software and phone support as needed.
“I enjoy it,” said Johnson. “It’s a way to help out that most people aren’t interested in. It’s something that’s beneficial because it’s something a lot of people hate and don’t want to do.”
Johnson also enjoys the challenge of filling out the returns.
“It’s kind of like doing a crossword puzzle to me,” she said. “It’s not as daunting for me to do. A lot of people, I think, look at it and it throws them for a loop.”