THE STUDENT FEDERATION of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) is bringing back student-run tax clinics March 20–22. The clinic is run by student volunteers under the direction of Sarah Jayne King, SFUO vp finance, and is entering its second year of operation.
“There are quite a few student unions across Canada who hold tax clinics, and [the idea] comes from the Canadian Federation of Students,” King said.
The clinics use online tax software UFile, which helps facilitate simple tax filings.
King said while students can use the software on their own, volunteers—all of whom are U of O accounting students—go through rigorous training to help ease tax time for students.
“The training is co-ordinated by the Canada Revenue Agency through their Community Volunteer Income Tax Program,” said King. “It’s basically a program across Canada that trains volunteers from community organizations. It goes over the types of documents that clients will bring in, and the types of obstacles that may come up.”
Melanie Large, program co-ordinator, said the program is important because it offers hands-on experience for accounting students, as well as free help to those who need it.
“The volunteers are encouraged to consult the Canada Revenue Agency hotline, which is a hotline any Canadian can access,” Large said. “If [the volunteers] have a question about a student with an unusual tax form, [the hotline] can assist in making decisions.”
The clinics run by appointment. Students can book theirs at Tax@sfuo.ca. There will also be limited space for drop-ins, a change from last year. Students are required to declare the language they would like their tax return filed in, be Ontario residents, and provide their Social Insurance Number.
Large said the clinic has many volunteers returning this year, offering the program strong experience and leadership. King said last year’s feedback was poitive, and hopes to see the same response from students and volunteers this year.
“Providing free tax services is definitely something students need,” King said. “When we already have so many costs associated with our daily lives, having a program that helps students get work experience and help others to prepare their taxes for free—we are providing a really good service.”