About free tax clinics
Introduction to free tax clinics
The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) has existed since 1971 and is a longstanding partnership between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and community organizations and their volunteers.
In the province of Québec, the program has operated since 1988 and is referred to as the Income Tax Assistance – Volunteer Program (ITAVP). It is administered jointly by the CRA and Revenu Québec.
Participating organizations host free tax clinics where volunteers complete income tax and benefit returns for eligible individuals to ensure they receive, or continue to receive, the benefits and credits they are entitled to. In Québec, volunteers prepare both the federal and provincial tax return.
For the 2023 tax season, community organizations are hosting free in-person and virtual tax clinics. As a volunteer, you can choose to complete taxes in person or virtually, by videoconference, by phone, or through a drop-off clinic.
If you’re interested in participating as an organization or volunteer, please contact a CRA coordinator.
How free tax clinics help
Each year through the CVITP, organizations and volunteers help hundreds of thousands of people file their income tax and benefit returns and receive the benefits and credits they are entitled to.
Individuals need to do their taxes every year to qualify for many federal, provincial, and municipal programs and services. This is a difficult and sometimes overwhelming task for many people in need.
The CVITP is offered free of charge to everyone who meets the eligibility criteria, and includes doing taxes for current and previous years.
Organizations and volunteers cannot charge for their services and must decline any offers of monetary reward. Anyone who charges a fee for their services will be removed from the program, and their CVITP EFILE account will be suspended.
How free tax clinics work
Community organizations host free tax clinics and have their volunteers prepare income tax and benefit returns. The CRA’s coordinators support and guide community organizations as they deliver the program.
The CRA offers:
- training for volunteers
- customized tax preparation software (UFile)
- a year-round dedicated help line for CVITP volunteers
- a tax preparation clinics listing on Canada.ca
- laptops (quantities limited)
- promotional material
In order to be eligible for the CVITP, individuals must have a modest income and a simple tax situation.
This may include:
- adults 65 years and older
- housing-insecure individuals
- Indigenous Peoples
- modest-income individuals
- persons with disabilities
The following table provides a guideline to determine what is considered a modest income. In general, a modest income means the total family income is less than the amount shown in the chart below, based on the size of the family.
Suggested income levels Suggested income levels Family size Total family income 1 person $35,000 2 people $45,000 3 people $47,500 4 people $50,000 5 people $52,500 More than 5 people $52,500, plus $2,500 for each additional person
Family size includes an individual, or a couple, and their dependants.
Community organizations can adjust the total family income for their clients based on the local economic environment, the population they serve, and their resources. Organizations may also create additional criteria for the community they serve. If a host organization chooses to modify the family income amounts for their tax clinic, they should include details when posting clinic information on Canada.ca.
Simple tax situation
In general, a tax situation is simple if an individual has no income or if their income comes from these sources:
- benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, disability insurance, employment insurance, and social assistance
- Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)
- scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, or grants
- interest (under $1,000)
The CVITP does not provide training or support for complex tax situations. Volunteers should not complete returns with the following:
- self-employment income or employment expenses * (see Exception 1)
- business income and expenses
- rental income and expenses
- interest income over $1,000
- capital gains or losses
- bankruptcy in the tax year (or the year before, if that return has not yet been filed)
- deceased person
- foreign property (T1135)
- foreign income ** (see Exception 2)
Individuals who have a T4A slip, Statement of Pension, Retirement, Annuity, and Other Income, that shows self-employed or business in box 048 may be eligible to have their tax return completed through the CVITP if all of the following conditions are met:
- the total income in box 048 is under $1,000
- no expenses are claimed
- the individual is not registered as a GST/HST registrant and is not required to be one
Individuals who receive U.S. Social Security benefits are eligible to have their tax return completed through the CVITP. Any other type of foreign income (including a foreign pension) would not be considered a simple tax situation.
- Volunteers are not expected to answer complex tax questions. If a taxpayer needs information that is beyond the volunteer’s expertise, they should go to canada.ca/taxes or call 1-800-959-8281.
- Volunteers should only complete tax returns they feel comfortable preparing based on the information the taxpayer gives them.
Participating organizations and volunteers
Participating organizations include non-profits, charities, and other community groups. Some examples are:
- senior’s support and recreation centres
- shelters and support centres
- family services associations
- settlement organizations
- multicultural societies
- service clubs (i.e. the Lion’s Club, and the Royal Canadian Legion)
- band offices
- volunteer bureaus
- post-secondary student groups or associations
- places of worship
These organizations provide services to the community and usually have the infrastructure in place to support the CVITP.
Types of tax clinics organizations can host
- by appointment
- drop-off (and pick-up)
- virtual (serves eligible individuals within a province/territory)
- virtual – Northern communities (serves eligible individuals in prescribed zones only)
For more information on clinics, go to get your tax return done at a free tax clinic.
Volunteers give their time and energy to help others.
They are expected to affiliate with a community organization that is registered with the CVITP. If assistance is required, the CRA’s coordinators can help match volunteers with an organization.
If you know of an organization in your area that can help people do their taxes, contact the organization to see if they are interested in hosting a free tax clinic where you can volunteer.
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