2017 tax season is here, and for many of our residents and guests and people experiencing poverty and homelessness in our community, filing taxes can be a major challenge.
This year, H&R Block Canada, a tax preparation firm based in Calgary, generously offered to conduct a free tax clinic for The Mustard Seed’s guests and residents. Working in our Downtown Support Centre from February 21 – 24, H&R Block tax experts were on site providing free income tax filing and other tax consultations to the people we serve.
One of the guests told us, “I make less than $8,000 a year and I am on CPP, I cannot afford to spend $60 to file my income taxes. Having access to a free tax clinic makes a big difference for me.”
Another guest, Fred, said, “This is my first time to have my income tax filed here, and I am very happy to have it taken care of.”
Free tax clinics for men and women experiencing poverty and homelessness are a huge relief. Like everyone else, they are required by law to file their income tax yearly.
Every year, Canadians who live below the poverty line can easily miss out on important government benefits, such as the GST credit, because they don’t file their taxes. Not having a mailing address to use for their tax filing or having the required government identification prevents them from accessing government support programs. The free tax clinic allowed people to overcome many of the challenges that may have prevented them from filing their taxes in past years.
“People experiencing poverty and homelessness really need this services because they will not afford it otherwise,” said Valerie, one of H&R Block tax preparation experts.
Alina, another H&R Block tax preparation expert at the tax clinic believes that offering this kind of help is a great way to give back to community, particularly to those who need it the most.
Donna Ryder, a wellness advocate, who works directly with the people we serve to identify how they can be helped, said, “H&R Block did an incredible job. Overall, we had 67 people have their income tax filed, some had up to 10 years done. It was a great success.”
For over 50 years, H&R Block Canada has demonstrated a commitment to community support. It has done that and continues to do so through various activities. Volunteerism is an integral part of the organization’s identity. In 2015, and as part of its commitment to community support, H&R Block employees collectively donated over 25,000 hours of their time to various causes and initiatives across the country.
On behalf of all of us here at The Mustard Seed, thank you H&R Block for making tax clinics accessible to those in need.