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Volunteer tax help for eligible rural southern Albertans

Like it or not, the Canadian tax season has returned.  

Family and Community Support Services is partnering with the Canada Revenue Agency for the Community Volunteer Income Tax program. 

“We’ve been doing it for quite a while. Every year, it just keeps getting more popular,” says Kaitlynn Weaver, FCSS outreach services supervisor. 

Weaver says the program is a free service available to residents in Lethbridge County, the M.D. of Taber and the County of Warner. City of Lethbridge residents are not eligible for the FCSS program, as there are multiple volunteer tax supports in the city. Eligibility is based on income threshold and the simplicity of the tax return. 

“Every single year, we report how many people have utilized the service,” says Weaver. Last year, just under 500 people were supported with the volunteer tax program. “Every single year, we keep increasing the amount of people supported.” 

According to Weaver, the beneficial service brings money back into the communities FCSS serves through tax returns and benefits. “By completing the taxes, you’re able to continue receiving those benefits. It’s important for folks who are in low-income situations because a lot of individuals rely on that money every single month. That is why it is important to get your taxes done on time.” 

The program runs year-round, but between March and April there are six volunteers that help with tax returns. 

“That’s the best time to get the taxes done because we have so many hands-on deck,” says Weaver. After April, there are only two volunteers. 

“If people have older tax returns, they need to get completed or for some reason miss the deadline, we are still able to complete those taxes, it just takes a little bit longer.” 

FCSS also has staff members who can support residents in Low-German and in Spanish. 

“Which is a huge benefit. There are a lot of families who are new to this area who don’t yet speak English. Sometimes tax words or anything government-related is hard to translate, so having it in the actual native tongue is a lot more helpful and provides a lot more information,” says Weaver.  

“If someone has employment income or are self-employed or they’ve been filing for pre- or post-bankruptcy, we can refer folks to places that could help them.” 

Last year, Weaver notes, the total amount of money brought back into the communities through returns or benefits through the FCSS service was $4.8 million. “That just goes to show how important the tax program is for money in residents’ pockets.” 

For more information about the program visit fcss.ca. 

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