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Breaking Barriers: How Our Tax Clinic Helped 635 People Claim Vital Benefits

From February 19 to April 30, our tax clinic completed 1,053 returns: 635 unique individuals filed returns through the clinic – 570 current year returns and 418 past year returns. This was possible through the hard work of those we serve, our staff, and Becky Admiraal, the clinic’s guest facilitator, who contributed many, many hours completing the returns. 

A coffee cup sitting over a manila folder with a phone on the calculator app and tax documents on the side
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As every Canadian knows, personal tax returns are important! Not only are they necessary to receive your refund or determine your balance owing, but many benefits and tax credits require your return to be filed for eligibility: the GST/HST credit, Canada Carbon Rebate (formerly known as the Climate Action Incentive Payment), Canada Child Benefit, Disability Tax credit, Canada Workers Benefit, and more. And many aspects of life require your latest Notice of Assessment, which is provided after you file your return. 

Programs like Alberta Works and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) require participants’ tax returns be up to date – as well as many housing sites. Lacking a tax return sometimes leads to an eviction

Becky Admiraal knows how important it is to keep up to date with your taxes – she has 40 years of professional experience filing personal tax returns. And when Becky wondered how she could support our work, she reached out and offered to help file tax returns for those we serve. But there was a problem – many of our community members face roadblocks to filing their taxes

These roadblocks include lack of proper documentation, frequent changes in addresses, and often not having filed taxes in previous years.

Becky examined these challenges and discovered a solution: ‘tax clinics.’ Then Lina Meadows, our Senior Manager of Adult Programs, organized the tax clinic.

Photo by PiggyBank on Unsplash

Our staff sat down with all 635 participants, one by one, and gathered the necessary information. For those already connected with our services, this was done through their respective workers. For others, it was managed by our intake team. Once an individual’s information was gathered, our staff sent the forms to Becky, who then filled out the tax returns. If additional information was needed, she contacted the workers for further details. This back-and-forth continued until each return was complete. 

We encountered a few difficulties during the process. Address changes were an issue – many individuals did not know where they had lived at the exact times the forms required. Additionally, there were occasional discrepancies between the names the CRA had on file and legal names – for instance, having 'Jim' on file when the proper name was 'James,’ or vice versa. 

But we overcame these challenges and the benefits were substantial.  

Our community claimed a significant amount of money they were owed, and getting caught up with their returns enabled some to become eligible for critical programs. Additionally, this year, the CRA introduced a function to notify individuals if they had uncashed cheques on file. This proved invaluable, as many of those cheques had been returned to the CRA after going out to old addresses, and we were able to get those cheques sent to current addresses. 

This tax clinic's success speaks to the incredible work of Becky and our staff, as well as the patience and cooperation of our community members in gathering the necessary information. 

The tax clinic remains open, ensuring that more people can receive the benefits and credits they are entitled to. 

We are proud of the collaborative effort that made this tax clinic possible and look forward to continuing this vital service for our community.

As Becky says, “If everyone does one thing of which they are capable to help others, the world would be a much better place.” 


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