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CRA Free tax clinics overview

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.

Tax clinic volunteers complete tax and benefit returns for eligible individuals to ensure they receive, or continue to receive, their entitled benefit payments. In Québec, volunteers prepare both the federal and provincial tax return.

For the 2022 tax season, community organizations are hosting free in-person and virtual tax clinics. As a volunteer, you can choose to file and complete taxes in person (following local public health advice and measures) 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 eligible individuals

Each year through the CVITP, organizations and volunteers help hundreds of thousands of eligible individuals file their income tax and benefit returns.

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 service is offered free of charge to everyone who meets the eligibility criteria, and includes doing taxes for the current and previous years.

Organizations and volunteers cannot charge for their services and must decline any offers of monetary reward. Those charging a fee for their services will be removed from the program, and their EFILE account will be suspended.

 

How free tax clinics work

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
  • tax preparation clinics listings on the Canada.ca website
  • computers
  • promotional material

Community organizations host free tax clinics and have their volunteers prepare returns.

 

Eligibility criteria

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:

  • adults 65 years and older
  • housing-insecure individuals
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • modest-income individuals
  • newcomers
  • persons with disabilities
  • students

Simple tax situation

In general, a tax situation is simple if an individual has no income or if their income comes from these sources:

  • employment
  • pension
  • benefits, such as Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, disability insurance, employment insurance, and social assistance
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)
  • support payments
  • scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, or grants
  • interest (under $1,000)

Modest Income

The following table provides 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 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 dependents.

Additional Note

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.

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)
  • deceased individuals

Exception

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. The volunteer must be comfortable preparing the return with the T4A income and all the following conditions must be 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

Remember

  • Volunteers are not expected to answer complex tax questions. If a taxpayer needs information beyond their 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

Community organizations

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

  • Walk-in
  • By appointment (following local public health advice and measures)
  • 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

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 can host a tax clinic where you can volunteer.

 

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