Step 1: Learning about benefits

Support with filing taxes

Time
Expertise
Partnerships

Filing taxes is a critical gateway to accessing many government benefits. Some benefits are applied for when filing (such as the GST/HST Credit), while others require you to have filed your taxes and then fill out an application. (e.g., the Canada Child Benefit).

Supporting people in filing taxes is an important way to help them access benefits and tax credits. Hosting a Community Volunteer Income Tax Clinic (CVITP) is a great way for your organization to help, or you can provide other 1-on-1 tax filing help. If you already host a clinic or are not interested in hosting a clinic at your organization, there are other ways you can support people. This could include referrals to clinics in your area, partnering with others that provide this service, or offering other tax services such as tax preparation workshops/clinics, or supporting self-filing.

If you do decide to host your own clinic, go to Hosting a tax clinic for more information.

You will require the following resources:

  • Funding — Funding is not required to refer clients or partner with organizations who offer tax clinics; however, some communities partner and share funding and resources to help ensure the service can be provided each year. Funding may be required to host workshops or support self-filing.
  • Staff resources — Staff can research common documentation needed for tax filing, provide clients with tax preparation services (gathering appropriate documentation), and create a list of local tax clinic to refer clients to. You may want to designate a staff member to be responsible for facilitating the partnership with another organization that hosts a clinic.
  • Training/ Software — It will take time and access to software to prepare staff to support tax filing in the community. Even when providing non-CVITP related tax filing supports, general tax software knowledge is key.
  • Promotion — To inform clients about the importance of filing taxes and where to go to get support will require knowledge of the benefits to filing taxes and information on where to refer clients to access a tax clinic. Providing group information sessions may be a good way to generate interest in filing taxes and accessing benefits.

If you are referring clients to tax clinics or partnering with other organizations that offer this service, you do not need a lot of resources. However, there are things you can do to support people to file their taxes.

  • You may consider hosting a group information session on the benefits to filing taxes to drum up interest and help community members get prepared to file and learn where to go to get support in the community.
  • Embed tax filing preparation or assistance into other programs or services such as settlement or financial coaching.
  • Provide supported virtual tax filing to remote communities or those who may find it difficult to come in person (provided they have reliable Internet access). There is free tax software available through both commercial and government programs
  • Look for, or develop assisted tax filing programs in your area, such as what is offered by the Toronto Public Library.
  • Consider organizing a virtual self-filing program to support people when filing their own taxes. We have a Guide to Virtual Self-file to help you get started.
  • Deliver workshops for the public on tax preparation, tax documents, and tax software
  • Deliver workshops for other local organizations on tax filing and financial literacy.

In some cases, it makes more sense to partner with a local organization that already provides tax filing services, or that has more capacity to establish a tax filing program. If you decide to partner your role may include:

  • Promote the tax clinic (CVITP or not) to your clients, and/or through your marketing channels (newsletter, social media, website, committees etc.); start promoting early in January if possible
  • Provide information on eligibility for the tax clinic; it should be included in all marketing materials
  • Train your staff to know how to screen clients for eligibility, and how to refer clients to the clinics.
  • Support the clinic financially or with equipment such as laptops, as funding for tax clinics is limited.

Community Financial Counselling Services (CFCS) has been offering tax filing support for over 45 years. They have developed the expertise to meet the complex and often unique needs of individuals and families in Manitoba who are experiencing financial challenges. They also build capacity through collaborative partnerships with other organizations, and advocate for accessible, affordable, and appropriate financial services for all Manitobans.

AFOA Canada and AFOA Canada members support the Indigenous community by delivering a virtual tax clinic through Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) online platform.

Other supports that might interest you

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Crtitical supports you can provide throughout your client's entire journey

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Best practices

Get practical tools, methods, and advice. Learn from other organizations who are already providing access to benefits services by accessing this collection of their best practices.

Best practices