Financial Literacy and Justice

Ottawa EMC: ACORN providing free tax returns for low income families


Low-income families throughout Ottawa won't have to worry about losing a portion of their tax return to processing fees this tax season.

The Ottawa chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now [Canada] (ACORN Canada) is providing free tax return service for the less privileged in the community.

The program is made possible through the efforts of volunteers like Keisha Lim, a fourth-year economics student at the University of Ottawa who is also serving as the tax clinic coordinator.

"On average, we save people around $80 by doing their taxes here," said Lim. "This is the third year that ACORN has been running the tax service. We have done 1,266 tax returns the last two years, and 244 for back taxes. We've put back $1.6 million into the neighbourhood through those savings."

This is the third year the program has been serving the community, and has done roughly 600 returns per year.

"We're here to help people," said Lim. "Instead of putting money in the pockets of corporations, we're letting people keep that money themselves."

The program has helped people from all over the Ottawa area, from places as far away as North Grenville, Kanata, and Orleans.

Ottawa Citizen: Tax clinics bridge gap for low-income earners

ACORN [Canada] and other antipoverty organizations offer those in need affordable tax-filing alternatives to paying hefty fees for instant cash refunds, Don Butler writes.

Last year, Wayne Mahoney paid a company $130 to prepare his income-tax return and issue him an instant tax refund. The fee was painful, but he urgently needed the money to pay some bills. "It's a big hole in my pocket," says Mahoney, 55, who lives with his wife in subsidized housing in Ottawa's west end on a $1,500-a-month disability pension. "I basically came out on the short end of the stick." Mahoney needs help with his taxes because, he admits, "I don't understand the tax system. And if you can't understand the tax system, you can't win."

This year, though, he's getting his tax return done at no charge by volunteers at Ottawa ACORN, the local chapter of a national anti-poverty organization. It's the third year that Ottawa ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has offered the free tax-preparation service. In the past two years, it has filed 1,266 tax returns for low-and moderate-income Ottawans.

Citizen: Free clinic aims to take pain out of income tax season

A bicycle, new clothes, a trip to the museum -- these are some of the things Andrea Thomas can buy for her children with her income tax refund.

And thanks to a free clinic for low-income earners, the Ottawa mother of three gets to keep even more of her cash.

For a second year, the Ottawa Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is offering to complete and file basic income tax claims for free.

Organizers say the service helps give people autonomy over their financial affairs and lets them contribute to society, but saves them the costly fees storefront tax-filing services levy. The going rate for such a service is around $80.

The clinic also ensures people get all the benefits they deserve, from GST rebates to credits for taking the bus and paying rent.

Last year, ACORN helped more than 600 people file their income taxes.

"It's a great program because it caters to all walks of life," said Matthew Bullock, the tax clinic co-ordinator.

Households earning less than $30,000 per year -- be they recent immigrants, seniors, students, single-parent families or people on income assistance and disability -- are the priority, he added.

EMC: Ease taxing times at Vanier's free tax clinic

In terms of filing your taxes, that is.

For the second year in a row, the Vanier-based activist group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) will be hosting a free tax clinic through the tax season. The office fully opened up at ACORN HQ at 81 Montréal Road, Unit F, on Tuesday, March 2, and runs until Saturday, May 15. Tax filing day is Friday, April 30.

While Acorn offered a satellite tax filing office in Hintonburg in the west end last year, the operations have been centralized in Vanier for this year.

"It's better to have it concentrated in one location. All of our information is here," said Centretown resident Matthew Bullock is the group's tax site coordinator, during the media launch for the program on the morning of Friday, February 19.

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