The tax clinic is a free-to-use community tax-filing service that will be run at Carleton in March 2022. Since 1996, Carleton has run a volunteer tax clinic to help students, staff, and community members file their tax returns. The tax clinic is operated by the Sprott Tax Students’ Association (STSA) which recruits accounting students to volunteer at the clinic, trains them how to file a tax return, and then gives them real-world experience filing tax returns for community members and students. To ensure the highest quality standards are met, the tax clinic recruits professional tax accountants from local accounting firms who volunteer to oversee the tax returns being filed and to deal with any complex issues that come up. The tax clinic provides a valuable service by ensuring that community members can meet their tax filing obligations and that they get access to all of the benefits available to them. This service is particularly valuable to people with limited experience with Canada’s tax system such as first-time tax filers and international students.
The tax clinic will allocate funds to the following items:
- USB drives: The CRA requires tax clinics to provide clients with an electronic copy of their tax return via a USB stick. This results in the tax clinic needing to purchase significant quantities of USB drives.
- Printer & Printer Ink: First-time-filers need to print out their tax return and mail it to the CRA. This requires the tax clinic to purchase a printer and pay for printer ink.
- Envelopes and Postage: While most tax returns can be filed electronically, first-time filers need to mail in their tax return.
- Snacks for Volunteers: To show appreciation to the tax clinic’s volunteer tax preparers, the tax clinic will typically provide them with some light snacks during their shift.
- Virtual Tax Clinic Expenses: If Carleton does not allow the tax clinic to operate in-person in March 2022, the tax clinic will be run virtually (as it was run in March 2021). Running the tax clinic virtually requires the purchase of online storage solutions (i.e. Dropbox) to securely store client information (tax slips, SIN numbers).
The tax clinic has a meaningful impact on:
- First Time Filers: Doing taxes for the first time can seem complex and intimidating but having a free community tax clinic helps reduce first-time tax filers’ anxieties and guides them through the process.
- International Students: International students are often less familiar with Canada’s tax system and their returns are often more complex (due to the need to consider the tax implications of their home country). The tax clinic helps guide these students through the tax system and assists them with filing their return.
- Low-income Canadians: The tax system has many benefits for low-income Canadians but many miss out due to the complexity, time burden, and cost of filing a tax return. By making the process as simple as possible, the tax clinic improves low-income Canadians’ access to these benefits.
- Accounting Students: The tax clinic recruits and trains volunteer accounting students to file tax returns, giving them valuable tax experience for their resumes.
Additionally, the tax clinic gives Sprott accounting students who volunteer as tax preparers a well-rounded educational experience by letting them apply the concepts they learned in their Taxation I course (BUSI 3005) to a real-world tax filing environment. The tax clinic teaches students the practical aspects of filing a tax return (beyond just the academic concepts), along with opportunities to network with professional tax accountants, develop client service skills, and earn badges towards the Sprott employability passport.