About free tax clinics
Introduction to free tax clinics
The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) is a collaborative partnership between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and community organizations, and their volunteers, that has been in place since 1971.
In the province of Québec, the program has operated since 1988, and is referred to as the Income Tax Assistance - Volunteer Program. It is administered jointly by the CRA and Revenu Québec.
Tax clinic volunteers complete tax and benefit returns for eligible individuals to ensure they receive, or continue to receive, the benefit payments to which they are entitled. In Québec, volunteers prepare both the federal and provincial tax return.
For the 2021 tax season, community organizations are hosting free tax clinics. If your organization chooses to host clinics, your volunteers can complete and file taxes for free by videoconference, by phone, in-person (following local public health advice and measures) or by using a drop off and pick up option. If you’re interested in participating as an organization or volunteer, please contact a CRA coordinator.
How free tax clinics help eligible individuals
Each year, through the CVITP, participating organizations and volunteers help hundreds of thousands of eligible individuals file their income tax and benefit returns.
In order to qualify for many federal, provincial, and municipal programs and services, a yearly tax return needs to be completed. This is a difficult and sometimes overwhelming task for many segments in need of help.
The CVITP service is offered free of charge to everyone who meets the eligibility criteria, and includes the preparation of current and prior year returns.
Organizations and volunteers cannot charge for their services and must decline any offers of monetary reward.
Organizations and/or volunteers charging a fee for their services will be removed from the program, and their EFILE account will be suspended.
How free tax clinics work
Regional and local 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
tax preparation clinics listings on the Canada.ca website
a computer donation program
Community organizations host free tax preparation clinics and arrange for their volunteers to prepare the returns.
In order to be eligible for the CVITP, individuals must have a modest income and a simple tax situation.
Individuals assisted by the program include:
newcomers and refugees
persons with disabilities
homeless and housing insecure individuals
individuals with a modest income
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 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)
Use the suggested income levels shown in the following table as a guideline to determine if an individual is eligible for the CVITP. 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 Family size Total family income 1 person $35,000 2 persons $45,000 3 persons $47,500 4 persons $50,000 5 persons $52,500 More than 5 persons $52,500, plus $2,500 for each additional person
Family size includes an individual, or a couple, and their dependants.
Organizations can modify the total family income based on the local economic environment, the population they serve, and their resources. Community organizations may also establish additional criteria.
The CVITP does not provide training or support for complex tax situations and as such, volunteers should not complete returns with the following:
self-employment income or employment expenses (see exception below)
business or rental income and expenses
interest income over $1,000
capital gains or losses
foreign property (T1135)
bankrupt individuals in the year of bankruptcy (or the year prior, if that return has not been filed)
Taxpayers who have T4A income that shows as self-employed/business in box 48 may be eligible to have their return completed under the CVITP when the volunteer is comfortable in preparing a return with that T4A income and all the following conditions are met:
total income in box 48 is under $1,000
no expenses are claimed
taxpayer is not registered as a GST/HST registrant
or required to be a GST/HST registrant
- You are not expected to answer complex tax questions. If a taxpayer needs information beyond your expertise, refer them to canada.ca/taxes or 1-800-959-8281
- You should only complete tax returns that you feel comfortable preparing based on the information that the taxpayer gives you
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
service clubs (for example, Lion’s Club, Royal Canadian Legion)
post-secondary student groups or associations
places of worship
These organizations already provide services to the community, and usually have the infrastructure in place to support the CVITP.
Types of tax clinics organizations host
There are 3 types of tax clinics:
by appointment: virtual or in person (following local public health advice and measures)
drop-off and pick-up
For more information on each type of clinic, go to Get your tax return done at a free tax clinic.
Volunteers are individuals, like you, who give their time and energy to help others.
Volunteers are expected to affiliate with a community organization that is registered with the CVITP. If assistance is required, CRA coordinators can help match volunteers with an organization.
If you are aware of any organization in your area serving groups of people who need assistance completing their personal income tax and benefit returns, we encourage you to contact the organization to see if they would consider hosting a tax clinic where you can volunteer.
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