Community

They shall return

Volunteers Mildred Bruckner (left), Les Friesen and Elizabeth Crouse help Stella Opper with her tax forms at a free Canada Revenue Agency tax clinic at Surrey Alliance Church. Bruckner, 84, has been helping low-income and senior clients at the site since tax year 1989. - Boaz Joseph / The Leader
Volunteers Mildred Bruckner (left), Les Friesen and Elizabeth Crouse help Stella Opper with her tax forms at a free Canada Revenue Agency tax clinic at Surrey Alliance Church. Bruckner, 84, has been helping low-income and senior clients at the site since tax year 1989.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph / The Leader

It might seem that nobody likes to do taxes, but there are exceptions.

Take Mildred Brucker.

She’s been volunteering to help seniors, single parents, low-income families and new Canadians with their tax returns for close to a quarter-century.

Long before computers became the norm for the annual chore, she was jotting numbers onto lengthy forms for those in need in 1990 when a free tax clinic opened up at Surrey Alliance Church.

For the first five years, she even made house calls for disabled or housebound clients.

At 84, she’s “still pretty illiterate,” on computers, but prides herself in knowing about the only thing she can do well with them is file someone’s tax return.

Brucker was among the first in the area to be trained on the computers that were used by the tax clinic – the first units were donated by Canadian Airlines around the year 2000, when the carrier merged with Air Canada.

Before that, the tax-filing process involved loads of papers, “one pencil and a humongous eraser,” jokes Don Poole, the clinic’s coordinator for the last 10 years.

Poole runs a small army of 30 volunteers – about 20 of them certified to work the 11 workstations on the church’s spacious mezzanine-level balcony.

Returns are completed on a first-come, first-served basis, through a drop-off service, or by appointment.

Volunteers are trained by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in what’s called the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP). Initial training takes about eight hours, and returning volunteers are given short refresher webinars each year as new tax rules take hold.

The CRA’s free tax clinics are geared for single people who make up to $30,000 per year, one adult with one child making up to $35,000, and a couple making $40,000. Additional children allow for extra income of $2,500 per child.

The only other limitation for the tax clinic eligibility is simplicity: Tax preparers will not process returns for business owners, landlords (those who claim rent as income), or on behalf of the deceased.

Volunteer Les Friesen says the role of CVITP tax preparers is not to give tax advice, but they can and do make clients aware if they’re eligible for various government rebates and tax credits due to disabilities or other dependents they hadn’t considered.

He says clients have been surprised by what they could claim – some benefits going back up to 10 years.

Volunteers at Surrey Alliance Church have filed 28,000 tax returns since 1990, and filed 2,000 in 2013.

“We’re doing good service for the community,” Brucker says.

The tax clinic is open every Tuesday and Saturday (except April 19) from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. until April 29 at Surrey Alliance Church, 13474 96 Ave. Appointments can be made by calling 604-584-7617, Ext. 103.

 

Other free local tax clinics (drop-in included, unless specified):

 

• Gurdwara Dikh Nivaran Sahib, 15255 68 Ave., Tuesdays, Wednesday and weekends, by appointment only, call 604-595-1973.

• Gurdwara Sahib Brookside, 8365 140 St., Mondays and Fridays, call 604-595-1973.

• Jinny Sims’ office, 8532 Scott Road, March 12 and 15 only, call 604-598-2200.

• Oak Avenue Neighbourhood Hub Society, 12740 102 Ave., Wednesdays and Thursdays, by appointment only, call 604-582-7088, Ext. 3.

• Our Lady of Good Counsel, 10460 139 St., weekends, call 604-581-4141.

• Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society, #205-12725 80 Ave., Monday to Friday, appointment and drop-off only, call 604-596-7722, Ext. 145.

• Sources Community Resource Centre, 2343 156 St., Wednesdays to Friday, appointment and drop-off only, call 604-542-4357.

• MP Russ Hiebert, 1815 152 St., April 5 only, call 604-542-9495.

• Kent Street Activity Centre, 1475 Kent St., White Rock, Monday to Saturday, drop-off and for seniors only, call 604-541-2231.

• Sources Community Resource Centre (White Rock), 1461 Johnston Road, #208, Monday to Friday, drop-off only, call 604-542-4357.

 

For exact dates, hours and other details, visit http://bit.ly/1egtRfX

bjoseph@surreyleader.com

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