The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program helps low-income Canadians get their tax returns completed.

Community volunteers help low-income Canadians file taxes

But decades-old program is in trouble in Nakusp, as volunteers retire

Most people dread doing their own taxes.

Dianne Karafil does dozens of people’s returns every year.

“I liked math more than English in high school,” jokes Karafil, but says she says she’s no accounting genius.

She helps people file their returns through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.

“The program is for people with simple, straightforward income tax returns,” says Karafil. “It can be for people on social assistance, newcomers, seniors, students, indigenous people — anyone who qualifies as medium to low-income.”

The program can help singles with incomes of $30,000 and couples with incomes up to $40,000. Families with children have a limit of $40,000 income, with $2500 added per child.

People can drop off their T-4s and other important documents at the Nakusp Seniors Hall on Wednesdays, and have their completed returns the next week. Karafil also meets with house-bound seniors and other people in their homes, or often people will come to her.

Over the course of the tax season, Karafil and the other volunteers will help up to 100 local residents file their returns.

“Some of us are accountants, or bookkeepers, but you don’t have to be,” she says. “You just have to be comfortable doing simple, income tax return.

“It’s not a difficult thing, and it’s rewarding to be able to help people,” she says. “Because unless they actually make their returns, people can lose the benefits they receive because of their financial situation.”

The program has been around for decades, and Karafil has been a volunteer in Nakusp for 16 years, supporting people in Nakusp, Burton, Fauquier and New Denver.

But the program is in trouble.

A few years ago there were five volunteers, says Karafil, but that’s dwindled down to two – herself and one other. The only volunteer in New Denver moved away a few years ago, and Karafil’s been driving back and forth since to help people there.

“I am not able to do that this year, so New Denver has no one there who can do the program,” she says. “I’ve been trying for a year to find a new volunteer. You have to devote some time and energy, but it’s not something everyone can do.”

“I just feel sad. I’m 75 now, and this is my last year, and maybe for the other person. Then we won’t have anybody in Nakusp either.”

Anyone willing to volunteer will be given training, and the programs you need to help people file their returns, she says. It’s not that hard, especially with computers automating much of the math.

“It really is for people with simple, straightforward income tax returns,” she says. “Now we don’t have to do all the accounting part. We have to fill in the empty blocks and they do the calculation.”

And Karafil says she gets a lot out of these two months of volunteer work.

“I feel I meet some of the most wonderful people, and they are very very gracious and appreciative of what we do,” she says. “It’s a good feeling to do that. It also keeps my mind going because, although it is simple, it’s not something I normally do.

“I feel I am making a little bit of a contribution to the community.”

If you’d like to volunteer, contact Arrow and Slocan Lakes Community Services in Nakusp.

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