Community Volunteer Income Tax Program

A Guide for Community Organizations

RC266(E) Rev. 16

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Is this guide for you?

This guide is intended for community organizations that are joining or considering getting involved in the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. This includes libraries, non‑profit organizations, religious organizations, and other groups that offer services to the community.

About the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program

Introduction

Each year, through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP), participating community organizations and volunteers help over half a million Canadians file their income tax and benefit returns. This shows us that Canadians are compassionate and charitable and take satisfaction in providing a valuable service to members of their community.

What is the CVITP?

The CVITP is a collaboration between participating community organizations and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). These organizations host free tax preparation clinics and arrange for volunteers to prepare tax returns for eligible individuals. The CRA provides coordinators to guide organizations as they deliver the program, and offers training and tax software for volunteers.

In the province of Quebec, the program is known as the Volunteer Program and includes Revenu Québec. The volunteers prepare both the federal and the provincial return.

Who does the CVITP help?

The CVITP helps taxpayers who have a modest income and a simple tax situation. This may include:

  • Aboriginal peoples
  • social assistance recipients
  • newcomers to Canada
  • seniors
  • youth

Can you charge a fee for CVITP services?

Community organizations and volunteers cannot charge for their services as CVITP services are free of charge. You must decline any offers of monetary reward. Anyone found charging a fee for CVITP services will be removed from the program and their EFILE account for CVITP will be suspended.

What are you responsible for?

You are responsible for:

  • hosting tax preparation clinics
  • managing your resources and volunteers
  • keeping taxpayer information secure and confidential
  • ensuring that volunteers get individual EFILE certification or a police records check

The CVITP should easily fit into your day-to-day structure. There is no funding available but hosting tax clinics should not be a burden on your resources.

How to become a participating community organization

To participate in the CVITP and volunteer to host free tax preparation clinics, go to Lend a hand! Community organizations.

Procedures

Determine eligibility

To determine if an individual is eligible for the CVITP, use the suggested income levels shown in the following table as a guideline. You can modify the total family income based on the local economic environment, the population you serve, and your resources.

Suggested income levels

Family size Total family income Total family income – Quebec
One person up to $30,000 up to $25,000
One person with one dependant up to $35,000 up to $30,000
Couple up to $40,000 up to $30,000
  • For each additional dependant, add $2,500 to the total family income ($2,000 in Quebec).

Complex returns

Your volunteers should not complete returns for individuals who:

  • are self-employed or have employment expenses
  • have business income and expenses (unless income is in box 048 on a T4A slip and less than $1,000 with no related expenses)
  • have rental income and expenses
  • have interest income over $1,000
  • have capital gains or losses
  • file for bankruptcy
  • are completing a tax return for a deceased person

Ask the taxpayer for identification

The taxpayer must provide proof of identity before a volunteer can complete their return. Proof of identity should:

  • be valid
  • be government issued
  • include a photo

Examples of identification include:

  • provincial or territorial (or equivalent abroad) driver’s license or photo identification
  • Canadian or foreign passport
  • Certificate of Indian Status
  • military or other government employee identification card

Ensure the taxpayer completes Form TIS60

Each taxpayer must complete and sign Section 1 of Form TIS60, Taxpayer Authorization, before a volunteer can prepare their return. If the taxpayer wants their return filed electronically, both the volunteer and taxpayer must complete Section II.

The volunteer must give the completed and signed Form TIS60 to the taxpayer for their records. They should not keep a copy or send one to their CRA coordinator.

Securing taxpayer information

You and your volunteers must keep all taxpayer information secure and confidential. Follow these measures at all times:

  • Do not use or divulge any information provided by the taxpayer for any purpose other than to prepare their return.
  • Handle taxpayer information securely and store it in a locked drawer or cabinet.
  • Return all personal documents to the taxpayer.
  • Do not complete Form T1013, Authorizing or Cancelling a Representative, or act as an authorized representative for any individual you prepare a return for under the CVITP.
  • Do not save electronic copies of a taxpayer’s return on the hard drive of a computer. Encrypt returns using the tax software and save the electronic files on a USB flash drive only. If the tax software does not encrypt returns, use an encrypted USB flash drive.
  • Use EFILE to transmit the taxpayer’s return to the CRA within 48 hours of preparation. Verify the return was successfully transmitted.
  • Erase electronic files from the USB drive no later than 48 hours after transmission to and acceptance by the CRA. You must use the drive format option to completely erase the files.
  • Do not keep any copies of a taxpayer’s return (paper or electronic).
  • If a volunteer completes a paper return, they must give it to the taxpayer and tell them to mail it to the CRA.
  • In the event of any type of security breach, such as lost, stolen or compromised data, advise your CRA coordinator immediately.

Tax preparation clinics

There are several different types of tax preparation clinics you can operate. Choose the clinic that is right for you, based on the needs of your community and your resources. Good planning is the key to a successful clinic.

What type of clinic is right for you?

To determine the type of clinic you should organize, consider the following:

  • How many taxpayers in your community may require CVITP assistance?
  • How many volunteers can you reasonably expect to recruit, and when will they be available?
  • What is the size, location and availability of the facility where you will hold the clinics?
  • Do you have computers, USB keys and Internet access?
  • Are you able to give taxpayers a printed copy or a summary of their completed tax return?

Types of clinics

Walk-in

Walk-in clinics are exactly what the name implies. Taxpayers show up at an advertised date and time and volunteers help them complete their tax returns on the spot, in the order they arrive.

  • Make sure you have enough volunteers and computers to serve the number of taxpayers you expect to receive.
  • Use separate work areas to ensure taxpayer privacy and confidentiality.
  • Establish a waiting area for the comfort of taxpayers.
  • Assign a greeter to screen taxpayers for eligibility and proper documentation.

By appointment

With this type of clinic you have complete control over the number of taxpayers that can be seen on a particular day and can plan your resources accordingly.

  • Screen taxpayers for eligibility during initial contact.
  • Schedule appointments according to your volunteers’ availability (an experienced volunteer takes an average of 30 minutes to complete a tax return, while a new volunteer may take longer).

Drop-off and pick-up

This service involves more coordination on your part but may not require any space since volunteers can complete returns at home on their own computer. This is flexible for both the taxpayer and volunteer.

  • Your greeter collects the taxpayer’s documents and personal information during your advertised hours of operation. A volunteer completes the return at their convenience.
  • Set a reasonable time frame for volunteers to complete returns, based on experience and availability.
  • Maintain an inventory system to track the returns coming in and going out. At the very least, use folders or envelopes for each taxpayer’s information and store them in a secure location.
  • Have the taxpayer prove their identity when they pick up their documents and completed return.

Services for shut-ins

This is a valuable service you can provide for individuals who have mobility issues and cannot visit a clinic. Volunteers should be experienced, comfortable visiting a taxpayer’s home, and be someone that a taxpayer would feel comfortable having in their home.

  • Arrange for a volunteer to travel to the taxpayer’s home and complete the return on a laptop or by hand, or gather the information and complete the return later.
  • Provide the volunteer with a phone contact in your organization for resourcing and security purposes.
  • Avoid sending a volunteer to a taxpayer’s home alone.

Tax clinic season

Most tax preparation clinics are held in March and April. The tax software is usually available mid‑February and most information slips by the end of February. Experience has shown that clinics are often busy in the first two weeks of March and then the demand drops off until the last two weeks of April.

Volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any community based organization. There is no single profile of a successful CVITP volunteer. They come from all walks of life and are of all ages, cultures, and social or economic backgrounds.

Volunteer roles

The three principal volunteer roles are tax preparer, greeter, and resource person.

Tax preparer

While the CRA offers training and support, this volunteer should:

  • have at least some experience in preparing tax returns
  • be comfortable with computers
  • be compliant with CVITP policies

Greeter

Based on the type of tax clinics you choose to hold, the greeter may be responsible for scheduling appointments and pre‑screening taxpayers. Whether you use your normal greeter or establish a separate one for tax clinics, the greeter should:

  • be compliant with CVITP policies
  • possess good communication skills
  • be able to answer general questions about your organization and the CVITP

Resource person

You may want a volunteer with strong leadership skills to assist with scheduling and recruiting new volunteers. The resource person should:

  • be a resource and support for other volunteers
  • be able to assist with completing returns
  • be a returning volunteer with the CVITP

Recruiting volunteers

In addition to soliciting volunteers from within your organization and among your contacts, you can advertise using the promotional pamphlets or posters available from your CRA coordinator (see Promotional materials). Your coordinator may also be able to put you in touch with other organizations that can help you recruit or share volunteers.

Volunteer registration

All volunteers must complete the online volunteer registration at Lend a hand! Individuals. Ensure your volunteers are registered before they participate in the CVITP.

EFILE certification

The CRA encourages volunteers to use the EFILE service to electronically file the returns they complete. It is the fastest way to get refunds back to the taxpayer.

Volunteers who apply for an EFILE account or renew their existing account, must meet suitability screening criteria before they can be certified to use EFILE. Volunteers should register or renew early at EFILE for Electronic Filers, as applications may take up to 30 days to process.

Volunteer screening

All volunteers must get EFILE certification or provide you with a police records check before they can begin volunteering with the CVITP.

Volunteer appreciation

It is only through the goodwill and generosity of community organizations and volunteers that the CVITP continues to help people in the community meet their tax obligations and receive all of their entitlements. You may choose to recognize your volunteers in whatever way that is meaningful to your organization.

The CRA’s contribution

CRA coordinators

A CRA coordinator is available to provide:

  • guidance throughout the program
  • CVITP guides and forms
  • promotional materials

Training

Every year, all volunteers should attend one of the free training sessions offered by the CRA. Training sessions are provided by webinar and can be completed in a few hours, depending on the amount of questions and discussion. Face-to-face sessions may also be available.

If you are in a remote location and cannot participate in a webinar or face-to-face training session, you can ask your CRA coordinator for a DVD presentation.

Tax software

The CRA provides tax software for volunteers to prepare returns. Organizations and volunteers will receive an email with the instructions to download the software, and an activation key, as soon as the software becomes available (usually mid‑February). A limited number of CDs will be available for those without Internet access.

The tax software is to be used only for the CVITP. You must:

  • not copy or allow copies to be made of the software
  • only use the software to prepare returns for eligible taxpayers
  • not use the tax software for monetary gain

CVITP dedicated telephone number

During tax season, a CVITP dedicated enquiries line will be available exclusively to community organizations and volunteers participating in the CVITP. CRA telephone agents will answer questions about individual income tax, EFILE and EFILE error code messages, and the tax software.

Promotional materials

Get the promotional materials you need from your CRA coordinator well in advance. Prominently display posters advising taxpayers that CVITP services are provided by volunteers, not CRA employees.

The CRA provides the following promotional tools:

  • Pamphlet TIS28, Lend a hand! Need a hand? – helps recruit volunteers and promotes the CVITP.
  • Poster TIS46S, Lend a hand! – helps recruit volunteers, promotes the CVITP, and allows you to add your contact information. This poster is also available in other languages such as Arabic, Cantonese, Cree, Denesuline, Farsi, Hindi, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Urdu and Vietnamese.
  • Poster TIS50S, Need a hand to prepare your tax return? – lets taxpayers know about the CVITP, advises that volunteers are not CRA employees, and allows you to add details about your clinic. This poster is also available in other languages such as Arabic, Cantonese, Cree, Denesuline, Farsi, Hindi, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Urdu and Vietnamese.
  • The CRA website – allows taxpayers to search for tax preparation clinics in their area. Ask your CRA coordinator to post the details of your upcoming clinic(s).

Computer donation program

Each year the Government of Canada donates its surplus computers to schools, charities, and service organizations, including those hosting CVITP clinics.

If your organization would like to expand its electronic filing capabilities, complete Form RC320, Application for a Community Volunteer Income Tax Program Computer. The CRA often receives more requests for computers than it can fulfill. All applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

For more information

Website resources

cra.gc.ca
The CRA website can answer most of your tax-related questions and should be the primary resource for your volunteers. For technical questions relating specifically to the tax software, consult the software provider’s resources.

cra.gc.ca/efile
Find out everything you need to know about EFILE.

cra.gc.ca/volunteer
Register to become a participating community organization or volunteer with the CVITP. Find out about tax clinics operating in your area.

ufile.ca/products/cvitp
This UFile webpage is just for CVITP volunteers. It answers frequently asked questions and provides links to the UFILE Quickstart guide, the CVITP EFILE Guide, and UFILE online support.

Forms and publications

CVITP forms

Contact your CRA coordinator to get the following:

  • Form TIS60, Taxpayer Authorization
  • Form RC320, Application for a Community Volunteer Income Tax Program Computer
  • Form T1260, Income Tax and Benefit Return Summary

Other CRA forms and publications

To get CRA forms and publications, go to CRA forms and publications or call 1-800-959-8281.

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