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OPINION: Tax volunteers relieve pain in the assets

Published on

George Mathewson

“So you’re suffering from back pain,” the clipboard-holding doctor asks a waiting patient.

“Sort of,” the young man replies, lifting the back of his hospital gown.

“That’s tax pain,” the doctor exclaims. “Nothing I can do about that.”

That TV ad came to mind when I encountered a group of good Samaritans who voluntarily do the tax returns of total strangers.

I hate tax season with all its documentation and mathematics. Just strap me in a dentist chair with headphones playing the life repertoire of Kenny G, why don’t you?

Of the many volunteer activities one might sign up for to help others, poring over 5000-S1 T1 forms would be my barrel-bottom.

Which is why the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program is so impressive. A collaboration between local organizations and the Canada Revenue Agency, it provides free, walk-in tax clinics staffed by volunteers ready to help people of modest means who have simple tax profiles.

The current guidelines apply to individuals making less than $30,000 a year and couples earning under $40,000.

Last week, in a quiet room on Sarnia Library’s second floor, I found a group of these good Samaritans seated at tables, quietly helping those who had arrived clutching T4s and T5s.

They will do about 500 returns this tax season, mostly for students, pensioners and newcomers.

“The satisfaction comes from doing something for somebody else,” said program co-ordinator Peter Banks, a retired Imperial Oil engineer.

“All of the volunteers feel that way.”

Though an occasional grant helps out with material costs and the library provides the space, this is a true shoestring operation. In fact, members recently took up a collection of their own money to buy new printers.

For me, tax schedules are as frustrating as standing in a grocery store queue and watching the person ahead tip out their life-savings in pennies.

But Banks has been doing it for for 13 years, and volunteers Gerry Shanks, Rene Estanol and Warren Weiss, to name a few, even longer.

Tax filers must bring all their tax slips and receipts and personal identification to the clinic. A typical return takes about 25 minutes, on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The Sarnia Library clinics run Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 16, 23, 30 and April 6 and 13. The lone remaining Saturday clinic is April 2.

Other clinics are also offered at the Royal Canadian Legion and the Inn of the Good Shepherd.






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