With tax season upon us again the local volunteers that staff Williams Lake’s Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) have sharpened their pencils and broke out the calculators to help those in need.
This year a team of three volunteers including Rajneesh Khugsal, Judy Gibbons and co-ordinator Surinderpal Rathor are ready and willing to help those in the lakecity with low income file their taxes. Throughout the month of March, they will be providing several sit-in session across Williams Lake for those unable to pay to file their taxes to attend.
Rathor, who has been taking part in the program for 45 years now, said he loves what CVITP offers the community every year.
The work they do is close to his heart and he’s confident that, even though two of their usual volunteers are unable to take part this year, himself along with Khugsal and Gibbons should be able to answer any questions the public has.
“I love working with numbers, I’m a numbers man, even though I’m not a professional accountant,” Rathor said with a grin.
Khugsal, for his part, is a finance business partner for Pinnacle Renewable Energy in Williams Lake working with the local community. Being a part of the community and sharing whatever he can with those that need it the most is important to him.
Rathor’s connections with the community and his energy are big parts why Khugsal has returned for the last three years to the program, beyond the chance to get to use his skills and meet new people.
Since her retirement in 1994, Gibbons has been volunteering with the program both with and without Rathor. She does it because she’s lived here all her life and she’s gotten to personally know many of the people whose taxes she files.
“If they don’t file their income tax they miss out on all the credits, which is the GST and whatever the government is giving out, so for a senior that adds up to quite a bit of money,” Gibbons said.
The ceiling for eligibility hasn’t changed from last year and the program remains for those with an annual income of $30,000 for one person, $40,000 for a two-person household, plus $2,500 for each additional child.
Like last year, however, Rathor said these numbers are just a guideline and that they’re willing to look at each filing on a case by case basis.
He wanted to make it clear, however, their goal with CVITP is not to take business away from tax agencies in Williams Lake but instead provide the service to those unable to pay for it at one of these businesses.
These can include students, new Canadians and single parents, to name but a few. Whoever they are, Rathor said they treat and serve them all equally.
This year they’re offering eight sittings from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at various locations across Williams Lake for people to come in, drop off their filings and share any concerns with the volunteers.
Sittings began on March 5 at Glen Arbor, followed by sittings on March 10 at the Senior’s Activity Centre, March 12 at Sunset Manor, March 17 at United Steelworkers, March 19 at the Seniors Village, March 24 at Sage Training, March 26 at Salvation Army and March 31 at Cariboo Place Vantage Living.
When filing, Rathor said he’d like to request the community go to their pharmacy and request a medical printout rather than bring a bunch of individual receipts.
He’d also request that anyone declaring bankruptcy refrain from using their services as it can create legal issues for them.
Those unable to attend a sitting can contact Rathor at 250-392-0909 and arrange a meeting. Otherwise, they can drop their filings off at the Seniors Activity Centre from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday by filling out an information form, providing their T4 and other relevant documents.
Rathor would like to thank Mark Berazan from the Williams Lake District Credit Union for stepping up and making sure their computers are running smoothly for their e-filing and Glenda Winger at the Seniors Centre for organizing the drop-offs.
Diane Walters, who volunteers for the Women’s Contact Society, is also doing free income tax returns. Residents wanting to access her services can drop papers off at 51 Fourth Ave South.