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Income tax clinics abound in Barrie 0

Susan Doolan - Special to the Examiner
Ian McInroy Photo - Kate and Ted Blaker are helping hundreds of seniors with their volunteer income tax program.

Ian McInroy Photo - Kate and Ted Blaker are helping hundreds of seniors with their volunteer income tax program.

The City of Barrie's income tax clinics are becoming popular with local residents.

The clinics are offered free of charge to singles, single parents, common-law and married couples depending on income levels (under $25,000 or $40,000).

It's a service that has grown by leaps and bounds since it began in Barrie 30 years ago. Ted Blaker, who co-ordinates the volunteers for the income tax program, remembers his first year, 12 years ago.

The group did between 600 and 700 income tax returns. Since then, it's continued to grow by about 200 per year.

"Our group did around 2,500 to 3,000 taxes last year in this area," said Blaker, who was in communications in the military before he retired and took up volunteering for a variety of activities.

Math was always one of his strong points. He started out doing income tax for friends and family back in 1991 and signed on with the city when he found out about the program.

All of the volunteers are trained by Canada Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada). Barrie is the centre for training in Simcoe County and Muskoka. Last year, there were 32 volunteers in the City of Barrie itself. Around 30 more volunteers travelled here from Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Alliston, Orillia and Collingwood for training and then returned to their communities to provide income tax programs in each area.

The program is especially popular with seniors and people who are receiving welfare.

Blaker said changes to this year's income tax form are largely cosmetic and the volunteers can explain the two that may affect them the most - universal child care benefit and medical expenses - at the clinics. Details are also explained at the beginning of the 'General Income Tax and Benefit Guide' along with other changes.

In addition to coordinating the training for volunteers, Blaker also works at three of the five clinics that operate in Barrie between Monday and Thursday beginning mid-February.

Most require an appointment but there are two for drop-in traffic. Bring all information, property tax receipts and proof of rent, any T4 slips or government forms with you.

"Anything that they receive from the government - such as old age security," said Blaker, adding that people may be missing out on GST and HST refunds if they don't file their returns.

"And I've seen people who have had their child tax credit cut off. A lot of people are missing out on these funds - you're actually losing money."

Back years can be filed but there is a process involved and it can take up to a year to settle.

Canada Revenue Agency doesn't look at previous years until the current one is over. There is a 10-year time limit to recover this money.

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Clinics

- Allandale Rec Centre - Mondays and Tuesdays. To book an appointment, call 705-728-6332.

- Victoria Village - Wednesdays. To book an appointment, call 705-792-3411.

- Parkview Centre - Thursdays. To book an appointment, call 705-737-0755.

Drop in Clinics

- Central United Church, Ross St., today from 9 a.m. to noon.

- Collier Street United Church, on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


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