Hosting a CVITP program requires some planning and resources. Before your organizations takes on hosting a clinic, be sure to reach out to other clinics in your area and get their thoughts, advice, and resources.
Funding and registration
- Research tax clinics in your area to get to know your provincial rules and regulations and to determine if you have the internal capacity to set up a clinic in your community. Perhaps it will make more sense to support and partner with others instead. (Refer to section on partnerships below)
- Consider the kind of clinic you will host. Will you only do the taxes for the current year or will you do back taxes? Will you be open only at tax time or year-round? Are there any special accommodations you will want to provide based on the population you serve? Will you offer services online, in-person or both?
- Go to Host a free tax clinic — Canada.ca to learn more about what expenses are covered by CRA to host a CVITP (tax clinic) at your organization
- Learn more about what expenses are covered by CRA to host a CVITP (tax clinic) at your organization.
- Apply for a grant to host a clinic — How to apply - Canada.ca
- Ensure you have adequate space for volunteers to meet with clients. Set tables and chairs a good distance apart to ensure confidentiality.
- Create signage to direct people to the correct location.
- Ensure there are accessible washrooms and other facilities available for the public and ensure all health and safety regulations are adhered to.
- Security requirements, including a secure internet connection need to be in place as there is the ability to steal someone’s ID; refer to section on secure document storage for more information.
- It is important to have a dedicated person to support/run the clinic. It can be a staff person or volunteer.
- Tasks required to run the clinic include promoting the program, booking appointments, greeting clients, meeting with clients to review and complete tax forms, referring people to other programs and services.
Partnerships with CRA
- It is important to build relationships with the CRA to better support clients. Having people that will answer your call, trust your perspective and understand the type of people you serve is important.
- To build the relationship requires a lot of time and energy and it is important to know what you are doing/asking. If you call without the knowledge, you will lack credibility. You must build the relationship and build trust for you and the volunteers to be credible.
- Tip: If you call the CRA you should have exhausted all other resources.
Training of volunteers and staff
- Send out a call for volunteers in your community to become trained to work at the clinic. Note that volunteers will need to register with CVITP. There are many different roles a volunteer can play.
- Once volunteers are recruited, they will need to pass screening, police checks, and intervention checks as they are dealing with vulnerable people.
- It is advisable to have the highest level of vetting for volunteers especially if you are serving populations that might not have access to their tax info so volunteers can get tax slips and information on the clients behalf.
- The amount of training is significant to do the tax filing and problem solving and dealing with software and CRA. Training needs to be redone each year as CRA rules and regulations change and volunteers need to be updated and reminded of processes etc.
- Volunteers require technical and people support because they are the front line; they may experience negative things from clients so dealing with this will play a big part in training (refer to trauma informed approach under Principles for more information)
- Volunteer engagement is also important to ensure they feel supported and appreciated in their role, so they are more apt to return the following year; like staff they require opportunities to grow and contribute and to be recognized and acknowledged for the work they do
- One way to recognize volunteers and show your appreciation for their work is to coordinate a recognition lunch or snack or provide certificates when the clinic wraps up. Consider approaching private companies to provide donations of coffee or snacks.
- Volunteers who do the front-line work gain much knowledge from their experience. If possible, put this learning into your organizations database so it can be transferred to help other volunteers as well as the CRA.
- Promote your CVITP clinic to community members using flyers, social media etc. Let other organizations in your community know you will be providing this service so they can refer their clients to the clinic.
- Local libraries can be a good partner for helping to get the word out.
- Some organizations host tax clinics or tax services throughout the year, beyond CVITP funding. This may also include workshops on benefits or financial literacy.
- Some clients require more specialized tax filing support (e.g., if they have several years of unfiled taxes) for which you may need to refer them to a paid service or clinic that provides this service.
- Consider taking on more complex tax filing situations (beyond the CVITP such as self-employment income) or expanding the number of tax years you will file for.
- Provide virtual tax filing to people living in remote communities (provided they have reliable Internet access).
- Deliver workshops for the general public (or build capacity in other local organizations) on tax filing and financial literacy. (This is not a part of CVITP and will depend on your capacity, resources and scope of your mission.)
- If you become an expert in this area of service, consider mentoring and building capacity in other organizations to build their ability to provide this service.
- It takes many years of experience to build a successful tax clinic as there are many steps to coordinating and maintaining this service.
The Tenth Church Tax Clinic uses the church’s outreach to connect with and support seniors, newcomers, and refugees, enabling the volunteers to build deeper expertise in supporting these populations. The church itself does not have a particular focus or expertise in Financial Empowerment but has the expertise of 30 volunteers, many of whom have professional experience in tax preparation and accounting. Because it is entirely volunteer run, the clinic operates only during peak tax filing season from February to May each year.
The Tenth Church Tax Clinic has a close partnership with Family Services Greater Vancouver (FSGV), a community agency that provides financial empowerment support among its many other programs. FSGV helps support the Tenth Tax Clinic through technology infrastructure, such as laptop renewals, as well as helping with volunteer appreciation and support.
In addition, FSGV provides a key place for Tenth Tax Clinic volunteers to make referrals. When volunteers identify clients who need benefits access support, financial counselling, or who have complex tax filing situations, they can make referrals to FSGV. Filing taxes is a key moment in time where volunteers might notice other opportunities to help clients, and this referral pathway makes it possible for clients to access these supports.