35,000 returns and counting in free tax-prep sessions at Surrey church

Volunteers crunch numbers for low-income earners at clinics on 96th Avenue

Tax-prep volunteer Rick Friesen helps client Ethel Cornwallace at Surrey Alliance Church in Whalley.

SURREY — Deborah likes her life in Canada. She’s been here nearly six years now, she’s gainfully employed and she’s just had a baby that’s cuter than a kitten snuggling with a teddy bear in a YouTube video.

Deborah brought her baby, Angelina, with her Saturday to Whalley’s Surrey Alliance Church. She came not for worship. Or a flea market. She came, instead, to do her taxes.

Deborah was not alone. Indeed, she was one of 115 people that day to use the sprawling facility as their own personal income tax centre.

And that’s what Les Friesen (pictured) likes to see. A regular member of the congregation, Friesen is also the church’s assistant co-ordinator for the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP)Don Poole is the lead co-ordinator of the program at the church.

A collaboration between community organizations and the Canada Revenue Agency, the CVITP gives people with low income a chance to get their taxes prepped and filed – for free.

Though the Surrey Alliance Church site isn’t the only CVITP clinic in Surrey (check cra-arc.gc.ca for the full local roster), Friesen reckons it’s the biggest and busiest.

Early Saturday afternoon, the morning rush had faded. The main floor “waiting room,” almost the size of a basketball court and the place where applicants are processed and screened, was now quiet. But upstairs, where volunteers work one-on-one in cubicles with eligible taxpayers, remained busy.

“Taxes are daunting – for anyone,” says Friesen, adding that most of the clients are immigrants and seniors. “When you don’t know the language, it’s ever more daunting. We’re here to help them out with their taxes, get some of their entitlements, and to register them to collect the GST and sales credits.”

In the first cubicle was volunteer Jason Chouinard, a guy who “likes to help people who are in low-income positions and are scared of forms or by the CRA.”

Chouinard, who just started a new job as an ICBC adjuster, says he saw five people Saturday, but that he arrived later than usual and typically handles 10 in a given day.

“I find it rewarding. Like the lady I just helped (Deborah). This is the first time she’s setting up for the child tax benefit. She works for minimum wage and she needs that benefit to support her family.”

Friesen cautions that there are restrictions. For singles, the ceiling is $30,000. For couples it’s $40K. And the clinic runs Tuesdays and Saturdays only, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., until April 30. Still, he says, “in the 27 years (in operation), we’re probably close to 35,000 returns.”

The church is located at 13474 96th Ave., Surrey.

(PICTURED: Deborah brought her baby Angelina to tax-prep clinic at Surrey Alliance Church last Saturday. Photo by Gord Goble)

Friesen has been doing it for seven years and he has his stories.

“We had one client a couple years ago who was very low income. We entered all her slips from the government to register the taxes, and she said, ‘Oh by the way, I have this other slip here. I earned some other money throughout the year.’ And I said ‘Oh, what is that from?’ And she said, ‘ I collect pop cans.” She wanted to report it.”

Deborah, currently on maternity leave, discovered the program three years ago and is thrilled such a thing even exists.

“It’s really, really good,” she says. “When I went to other places, I didn’t get money back. But the first time I came here, I was so excited. Wow! I’m going to get money back from my taxes.

“I want to thank them for being good people…and for bringing this out for people who don’t have money to file their tax. Next week, I will bring my friend.”


(Pictured: Deborah with volunteer Jason Chouinard)

Just Posted

Mother’s death causes singer to cancel Surrey Fusion Festival performance

Revised schedule released with Mankirt Aulakh replacing Sharry Mann

Toilet, bathtub among junk dumped behind Scott Road thrift store, costing operators money

‘I wish people would appreciate what we do, and not dump their stuff,’ frustrated manager says

Cars keyed on BC Ferries after alarms bother dog on board

Delta police arrested one passenger on suspicion of mischief

TONIGHT: Eagle Eyes to headline Concerts for the Pier in White Rock

East Beach event to feature The Fab Fourever

New day camp for Surrey children living with cancer, blood disorders

West Coast Kids Cancer Foundation running another session at Surrey school

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Most Read