For the past 15 years, the School of Administrative Studies (SAS) has offered income tax clinics in the area surrounding York University. Unfortunately, this program can no longer be offered for reasons discussed below.
We wish to thank all past volunteers and encourage everyone who can to volunteer for the CRA’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP). You can find out further information about registering to volunteer and receive training on the government website. Some of the CVITP clinics are operating virtually at this time.
Under the SAS program, Professors Joanne Magee and Jason Fleming supervised around 50 students annually to prepare income tax returns for low-income individuals. Students received training and prepared personal income tax returns by hand using paper tax forms.
Most of our clients don’t owe tax – but they need to file an income tax return to receive the Climate Action Incentive and to re-qualify on an annual basis for the GST and Ontario Trillium payments and the monthly Canada Child Benefits. Filing a tax return is also necessary for other federal and Ontario income-tested benefit programs.
— Joanne Magee & Jason Fleming, SAS Professors & Program Coordinators
Faculty members are not alone in their appreciation of the community tax clinics. Byron Gray, York University - TD Community Engagement Centre (YU-TD CEC) Manager, says opportunities such as this one demonstrates the commitment York University has as an anchor institution in the community.
We have seen first-hand the positive financial impact on low-income residents of the Black Creek Jane Finch area, and it is a great way for new immigrants to Canada to learn more about processes that might otherwise feel overwhelming in a new country. We will continue to collaborate with other community-based organizations to promote CVITP clinics and student volunteer opportunities.
— Byron Gray, York University - TD Community Engagement Centre
From 2005 to 2018 SAS worked with CPA Ontario to hold tax clinics in March and April. During those years, SAS volunteers logged more hours than any other similar program working with CPA Ontario and we won CPA Ontario Awards for this work. For 2019 and 2020 we continued our tax clinics without CPA Ontario as it changed to a new process working with the CVITP using computer software and filing electronically.
Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to complete forms manually: the system has become more complex and paper tax forms are more difficult to access. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it too dangerous for our students to continue with our tax clinics and it is impossible for us to supervise several students at a time completing returns electronically, particularly virtually.
The good news for all Canadians is that the September 2020 speech from the throne contained a promise to introduce free automatic tax filing in the future for taxpayers with simple returns. When implemented, this will give lower income individuals better access to federal and Ontario income-tested benefit programs. In the meantime, if you are a Canadian who still needs to file tax returns for 2019 or prior years, you can look for one of the free CVITP tax clinics in your community that are operating virtually. We also encourage everyone to register online for CRA’s “My Account” program because it makes it easier file your return and apply for government benefits.