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Free tax filing for modest income earners

Prince Edward Learning Centre is once again running its free tax clinics for anyone in the community who has a modest annual income (under $35,000) and is not self-employed.

“It’s pretty common to feel overwhelmed by taxes,” said Tammy Harvey, Financial Empowerment Coordinator at PELC. “Some people put it off, and get a few years behind. Or maybe they file their own returns, but they could use a second pair of eyes to make sure they’re not missing out on any benefits. We want people to know we’re here to help.”

The popular clinics served 400 clients last year, with an average filing benefit of $2,548.

Over the past two years, during the pandemic, volunteers transitioned to virtual filing.

“Those systems are still in place,” Harvey explains, “but this year, people have a choice.” Volunteers will be in the office on Fridays for in-person returns, she notes, while drop-offs and virtual filings are still available for clients who prefer to file from a distance.

County resident Jeremy Johnson used the online clinic for the first time last year.

“Previously I’ve either struggled to do it myself, or gone to a company that does your taxes,” he says. “It was fast and easy. Everything was done within a couple of days after dropping off my paperwork.”

The tax clinics are part of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, funded by the Canada Revenue Agency. All volunteers are vetted by the CRA and complete Vulnerable Sector Checks with the OPP.

PELC provides volunteers with additional training in resource navigation, which allows them to identify programs and benefits that clients may be eligible for, such as assistance with energy costs. It’s also an opportunity to offer life stabilization supports, Harvey explains, depending on individual needs. “A client can walk in with their taxes, and walk out with grocery gift cards, or help navigating housing assistance.”

People can also get help at PELC dealing with bills that are past due.

“It’s easy to get behind when you are struggling to make ends meet,” Harvey adds, emphasizing all clients are treated with empathy and respect.

Last year, the team assisted a client on a fixed income who was four years behind in filing. Because they hadn’t filed their taxes, they were missing out on benefits they were entitled to receive, such as GST rebates and the Ontario Trillium Credit. Without this extra income, they had also fallen into arrears on their hydro bill.

With the help of PELC staff, the client was able to access the tax slips they needed and submit four years of returns. Next, staff helped them apply for the Ontario Electricity Support Program, which led to a $45 credit on their monthly energy bill. The client not only received a $7,385 tax refund and help with hydro arrears, but as a result of filing their taxes, vital benefits they’d been missing were restored.

This year’s free tax clinics get under way March 7. People can register by phoning PELC or emailing Facebook users can also sign up through a new page dedicated to “Financial Empowerment at PELC.” After signing up, people can expect an intake call to confirm their eligibility and schedule an appointment.

Prince Edward Community Care for Seniors volunteers will also complete 2021 income tax returns for seniors who live in Prince Edward County starting on March 1.

If you are a senior 60+ whose single income is $35,000 or lower or a couple whose household income is $45,000 or lower, you may be eligible for help through this program.

Volunteers have been trained by Canada Revenue Agency to complete Income Tax Returns for eligible clients. Volunteers do not complete income tax and benefit returns for: deceased persons; resident of Long-term Care homes; bankrupt individuals; for those with more than $1000 of investment income; for individuals with capital gains/losses; or for people with business or rental income and expenses.

For information call 613-476-7493.


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