Sometime back, I was talking to a colleague about income taxes in general and she mentioned that she must remember to set up an appointment with the local accounting firm and file her return before the income tax deadline. I inquired if she always used a tax professional and she answered in the affirmative. That conversation got me interested in CRA’s volunteer program. I was aware that tax/accounting firms hired extra help during tax season but I investigated further about how one could become a volunteer.
Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP)
The CVITP is a collaborative endeavor between the CRA and local organizations. The program is designed to assist eligible people who are unable to prepare their own return in filing their income tax on time. The CRA supports the program through its training for volunteers, making tax software available, and offering CVITP coordinators to facilitate the implementation at the community level. It is estimated that over half a million Canadians benefit each year through this initiative.
Who is eligible to use the program?
Taxpayers who have low income and simple tax situations are the intended beneficiaries of CVITP. Typical users of the program include seniors, students, newcomers to Canada and low-income taxpayers. Low income guidelines (maximum limit under the program) are set at $30,000 for a single person, $35,000 for an adult with a child, and $40,000 for a couple. These guidelines can be adjusted by the local organization depending on criteria such as the number of inhabitants in the area, the number of people the organization can serve, etc.
Complex situations involving self-employed people, taxpayers who file for bankruptcy, individuals with employment or business expenses, rental income and expenses, and returns for deceased people are not served under the CVITP.
Becoming a volunteer
A volunteer is given training through volunteer tax preparation clinics between February and April of each year at various locations. Evidently, an important criterion for being a volunteer is to respect the client’s right to privacy and maintain confidentiality of the individual’s information. From a personal standpoint, being a volunteer improves one’s tax knowledge and provides access to free tax software and reference material. Needless to say, serving the community is the greater good in this exercise.
In order to become a volunteer, one must be affiliated with a community organization. Some basic understanding of the Canadian income tax system would be useful for this program. Registration for volunteers is open from October to December and one can register online at this link.
Becoming a community partner
Community organizations are the second half (CRA is the first) that make the CVITP possible. Joining with the CRA as a community partner provides a service to the local people who are in need of income tax filing help. The community partner is responsible for organizing local tax preparation clinics and adhering to the policies set forth by the CRA. There is no CRA funding for this program but they provide CVITP coordinators who organize training sessions for the volunteers, reference material, and tax software. One can register online to become a community partner by filling out the form on this page.
Have you served as a volunteer as part of the CVITP, or have you been a community partner? Any tips for readers interested in either roles?
About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.