Creative ways to love our neighbours
Renaissance Church in Quebec City offers an annual free tax clinic to help those in their community. This year they served 350 clients during March and April. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Renaissance Church, Quebec City
Offer free income tax services to the community
Volunteer time and paper for the printer
Pastor Stéphane Couture explains:
For the last 13 years our Evangelical Baptist congregation has offered an annual free tax clinic for our community. Four volunteers, on average, complete and file tax returns for people with a modest income and a simple tax situation.
We offer this program through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) of the government. That Canada Revenue Agency program is set up to enable churches and other community groups to offer free clinics to help people who can’t afford or access paid help to complete and file their income tax returns.
When we first started to offer this service, we had nine clients. We tripled that number the next year, and the next, and then it kept doubling. This year we served 350 clients during March and April, the two months of the tax season. For us, it is lowincome people and in Quebec that means less than $35,000 a year for an individual, and less than $45,000 a year for a couple. Most of our clients are retired people, immigrants, students, people on welfare or very lowincome individuals.
People who would never cross the threshold of a church feel welcomed and helped.
They are ordinary church people who want to help and understand the basic rules about income tax. You don’t need to be an accountant or specialist. Our volunteers are people with free time who learn how it works. The government furnishes you with income tax software that you use, so it’s a very professional preparation. The tax forms we complete are very simple ones and the government also provides online training. Every year we learn about any new tax credits or changes to the tax forms.
This is a very simple thing most people could offer through their churches. We estimate that, by offering this service, we are enabling people in our community to collectively save an estimated $45,000 to $60,000 in fees.
You can set it up in different ways, but we have a very simple routine. People call and make an appointment to come and meet with a volunteer. The volunteer takes basic information they need to complete the tax forms and the client fills out an authorization form. We meet again with them a week later to give them a copy of their declaration and we submit their forms online.
By meeting with the clients, we are given the opportunity to know our community better. People who would never cross the threshold of a church feel welcomed and helped. It gives us wonderful opportunities to have faith conversations with people of other faiths. For our volunteers it’s been an eye-opening opportunity to see how blessed they are. To be able to just listen and have conversations and bless them is wonderful.
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