Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Retired CRA employee volunteers to help others file tax returns

  • May 5 2021
  • By Janice Christie    

SHEET HARBOUR – A desire to help people and a love of numbers led retired Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employee and Sheet Harbour resident Jack Marshall to help others file their taxes for the past 12 years.

“Some people find the preparation of the annual tax return challenging and may not have the resources – financial, transportation or otherwise - to go elsewhere,” he says.

Since he has the skill set, he says why not use it for the benefit of the community. And the community has indeed benefited – with up to 150 filers a year.

Since 1971, CRA has partnered with community organizations to offer the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) to help individuals and families in preparing their income tax and benefit returns.

There is no charge for this service.

“In order to qualify for the program, a person or family must have a modest income and a simple tax return,” says Marshall.

The volunteer service runs for two months each spring, from Mar. 1 to Apr. 30.

CRA holds a series of free webinars for volunteers to update them on changes to tax regulations. CRA also provides the software for the program.

The YMCA Employment Centre, located in the Bluewater Building in Sheet Harbour, provides the community support for the CVITP – both in terms of space and clerical support.

Dawn Howe-Power of the centre advertises the program through the YMCA Employment Centre Facebook page and sets appointments with clients.

The tax return clinic opened one morning a week during March and April. Marshall had no contact with clients until they arrive for their appointments – during which he completed the returns and gave the clients paper copies for their records.

Clients came from the catchment area of East Ship Harbour to Ecum Secum, as well as Middle Musquodoboit and Liscomb.

“On average, about 140 to 150 volunteer returns are done annually,” Marshall says. “Most of the clients are seniors – but not all.”

Recently, Marshall completed a return for a 16-year-old student who has a part-time job.

Marshall started his career as a naval officer. But, in 1974, he left the regular force navy and attended St. Mary’s University to obtain his undergraduate degree in commerce. For the next 30 years, he worked with CRA in Toronto and Ottawa. He began doing business audits, then programming and later procurement. During this time, he also served with the naval reserve.

Marshall volunteered for the CVITP in Ottawa for a number of years until he retired in 2006. He and his wife, Edith, moved to Sheet Harbour in 2007. Marshall did a year with H&R Block in Dartmouth in 2008 and, while he enjoyed the work, he found the drive along the Eastern Shore long for the short shifts of only three to four hours in the city.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had little effect on the number of volunteer tax returns he does, Marshall says. However, there needed to be some adjustments to the process.

“In 2020 – after the lockdown – Dawn arranged for clients to drop off their paperwork at the centre. I picked it up and returned the completed paperwork to Dawn.”

In March and April of 2021, appointments were done in person – following the prescribed guidelines – until the most recent lockdown, when the process reverted to that of 2020.