Filing income taxes can be daunting for anyone, but even more so if you’ve missed a year of filing, or have difficulties navigating the system.
That’s precisely why local MPP Ian Arthur and his team are moving from having occasional income tax clinics to hosting the clinics on a once monthly basis.
Arthur’s office offered multiple tax clinics at the height of tax season this year, and the uptake was incredible, Arthur said. After that, his team continued to host the clinics when possible, and what they found in doing so has led them to deciding it’s a service so important that it needs to be held consistently on a monthly basis.
“Part of the impetus to do this was the response we had to the initial days that we offered the clinics,” Arthur said. “There was an obvious need in the community.”
And while MPP offices have run temporary legal clinics before across Ontario, Arthur’s team decided to do things a little differently. The team went through the process of registering to be a year-round tax clinic in partnership with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
But with tax season months ago, why have Arthur and his team decided to make this a year round service?
“There are a lot of folks who, for whatever reason, don’t get their taxes in on time, and it can be people who miss them for one year, and they’re daunted about going back and doing it again, people who don’t really understand the system of how to do it, or how to access it,” he said.
Arthur also noted that some people aren’t financially able to afford to go to income tax businesses to have a professional do their taxes for them. Furthermore, he expressed, while a lot of tax businesses advertise that there is no upfront cost to using their services, those businesses end up taking a part of the return that would otherwise be going back to a community member.
“So we wanted to make sure that there was a service that was available where you got 100 per cent of your tax return,” he said.
According to Arthur, to date, his office has helped to bring almost a quarter of a million dollars back to members of the Kingston community.
“It’s huge! And it really adds up,” Arthur said.
To put that in perspective, Arthur explained that his office has spent 170 staff or volunteer hours on this program.
“And we did the math: the payback per hour is $1,470 an hour back into the community,” he said, noting that the team started to notice the exceptional return on investment that was taking place.
“It didn’t take a lot of time, and now we’ve partnered with a couple of other organizations to help find the volunteers, so it’s just a very tangible way to help the community.”
Arthur explained that there are other reasons it is important for people to be on top of filing their taxes. In order to access a number of government programs, such as the Child Tax Benefit program, a person has to be up to date on their taxes.
“And we’ve helped walk people through [the] process for getting their disability tax credit certificates, and, if they actually get it, it can be retroactively applied up to 10 years back,” Arthur said, noting that, in 2018, the maximum amount for a Disability Tax Credit Certificate was $8,235.
“So part of this is to help those folks that are facing those barriers to make sure that they access the programs that are there to help them. Because they’re not all that transparent, and sometimes folks don’t even know about them.”
Arthur’s office is beginning to offer their income tax clinics on the first Tuesday of every month, starting tomorrow on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. The clinic will be open at the office (which is located within the LaSalle Mews) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free of charge and allows people to get up to date on income taxes from 2009 to 2018. The clinic takes place on a walk-in basis with no appointments required.
Residents must meet the following requirements to be eligible:
- Household income up to $50,000;
- Simple Tax Situations: Income from employment, pensions, benefits, RRSPs, supports, scholarships, etc.;
- No returns that include business income, capital gains, bankruptcy, or for deceased persons.
In order to can get your return done quickly and correctly, Arthur’s office urges residents to bring all of the following info that applies to you:
- Your income statements T3, T4, T4A, T4A(P), T4A (OAS), T4E, T4RSP, T4RIF, T5007
- Your Receipts: rent, property tax, charitable/political donations, medical expenses, child care expenses and RRSP contributions
“We’re just the access point,” Arthur said of the service and helping residents access programs that are available to them. “Honestly, there are other access points, but we want to make sure that we’re offering one that is accessible for free.
“It’s not that the MPP office makes things available that wouldn’t be available other ways, but we’re making sure that there’s an open and transparent access point for these folks, and offering some help in navigating the system,” he continued. “It’s a hard system to figure out sometimes”
For more information, contact Greg Ridge, Constituency Assistant for MPP Ian Arthur via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone or text at 613-532-8581.