Free tax clinics are a vital resource for Canadians with modest incomes because they provide an affordable and easy way to file taxes and access important benefits.
Over 649,000 individuals received more than $1.75 billion in benefits, credits and refunds through these clinics in 2022, according to a press release from the Canada Revenue Agency.
Supported by thousands of volunteers at community organizations across the country, these free tax clinics help Canadians get their taxes done accurately, so they receive the financial support they need.
What to expect at a free tax clinic
Free tax clinics are for lower-income Canadians with straightforward tax situations who need help doing their yearly income taxes. The clinics are hosted by community organizations and overseen by the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program and the Income Tax Assistance – Volunteer Program (ITAVP) in Quebec.
Nerdy Tip: Free tax clinics are only appropriate for those with basic tax filing needs. They are not for those with complex tax situations (such as if you have capital gains or are self employed) and volunteers will not be able to answer intricate tax queries.
If you want assistance and meet the criteria, you bring your tax information slips, receipts, Social Insurance Number and identification to a clinic, and a volunteer will help you complete your tax return.
There are three main ways to access these volunteer-led clinics:
- Walk-in Clinics. No appointment is necessary to use these clinics. They serve people on a first come, first-served basis.
- Drop-off Clinics. At drop-off clinics, you can leave your tax documents during advertised hours. A volunteer will then complete your forms and you can pick them up at a later time with proper identification.
- By-Appointment Clinics. You can make an appointment to file your tax return with a volunteer. Appointments can be either in-person or virtual (by videoconference or phone call). There’s also a virtual option specifically for residents in Northern communities.
Who’s eligible for free tax help?
Eligibility depends on your income and the complexity of your tax situation.
Individuals with modest incomes and relatively simple tax returns are the most likely to be eligible for assistance at free tax clinics. These individuals may include seniors, newcomers, people with disabilities and those receiving social assistance.
The government lists the criteria for free tax clinics on its website for reference.
If you aren’t eligible to use a free tax clinic, but still need assistance, there are other resources available, including:
- Tax preparation software. These programs offer step-by-step guidance and support for various tax situations, including more complex ones. Some software packages even offer free or pay-what-you-can versions.
- Professional tax preparers. Some tax preparation companies may only charge you a capped percentage amount of your overall tax return. Just be sure to completely understand the minimum and maximum amounts you’ll be charged.
- Community resources. Local libraries and universities may offer free educational workshops for Canadians who do not qualify for free tax help.
- Provincial resources. Some provinces provide free online workshops to help you do your taxes.
How to find a free tax clinic
The CRA provides an online directory of participating free tax clinics across the country. You can also do a simple Google search to find the nearest clinic in your area or contact your local representative for information.
Keep in mind that if you fit the criteria to have your taxes done at a free tax clinic but can’t travel, you have the option of booking an online appointment.
DIVE EVEN DEEPER
Living with an anxiety disorder or severe depression can affect your ability to work or lead to increased expenses. If you qualify, Canada’s disability tax credit may be able to provide some financial relief.
If you’re able to claim them, tax credits can reduce your overall tax bill. Find out which tax credits might apply to your personal and financial situation.