Back in 1726 a famous English writer called Daniel Defoe observed that “Things as certain as death and taxes can be more firmly believed”. Almost 300 years later, Tony Pullman, the coordinator of TAPS’ volunteer income tax program, answers questions about taxes at TAPS.
Why should people file their income taxes?
Because the federal, provincial and municipal governments all require people to file a tax return to become eligible to receive money or other benefits. Federally, we have the GST credit, the child tax benefit, the working income tax benefit and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to name but a few, while at the provincial level we have the PST refund, the BC low income climate action tax credit, and the reductions in Medical Services Plan premiums and Fair PharmaCare that are triggered by the filing of a return.
All low-income tax payers will receive a minimum of $450 over the course of a year in the form of a PST refund of $75 immediately, and the balance in quarterly GST cheques.
How can I go about filing a tax return?
Come to TAPS on any Thursday (except in August) and there will be at least two trained volunteers on duty to prepare and file your return. We run a face to face clinic, on a first come first served basis.
What if I haven’t filed my taxes for a few years?
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) allows you to file for the last 10 years. For years prior to 2012 we have to file paper returns, but for 2013, 2014 and 2015 we can file electronically. These are processed more quickly and any refunds are speeded up.
What should I do if I don’t have my T slips?
If you have lost your T slips for prior years, you should write to the CRA in Surrey (9755 King George Hwy., Surrey, BC, V3T 5E1) giving your name, address, SIN and date of birth and asking for all T slips that relate to the years for which you have not filed a return. We do prior years’ returns, except in March and April which are our peak months, when we only file returns electronically for 2013 onwards.
How many clients do you see in a year?
We see about 600 clients a year and prepare about 1800 tax returns. These trigger refunds and credits in the region of $1.8 million, all of which goes into the local economy as low income tax payers buy food and other essentials.
Tell me more about the program.
The Canada Revenue Agency has a program called Community Volunteer Income Tax Preparation or CVITP, which trains volunteers and provides free software and technical support for us volunteers. It also sets out guidelines which we must follow. The most important guideline addresses client confidentiality and the need to delete all files within 48 hours of filing. Other guidelines address those taxpayers we cannot assist, who include:
- People with income over certain thresholds ($30,000 for a single person, which increases for couples and dependent children);
- People who are self-employed and who claim business expenses;
- Taxpayers who have declared bankruptcy; and
- Deceased taxpayers.
Finally, the program must be free, which of course it is at TAPS.