TORONTO, April 28, 2017 - With the 2017 tax filing deadline looming, Canadians prone to procrastination may find themselves in a crunch, as they dig through their files for wayward documents, in order to get their tax returns in by the end of the month. For many of us, preparing and filing our taxes can be stressful, but for some, it can be an almost paralyzing experience.
Sean has been an outpatient client for only a few months, but his time at CAMH has already paid dividends – clinically and financially. “I told my social worker: ‘We talk about anxiety and stress? Well, I’ve got about eight years of unfiled taxes I need to do, so tell me about this tax clinic thing!’, and they got me to sign up” he says.
The clinic is an ongoing annual service organized by the CAMH Social Determinants of Health Service. Each year, CAMH invites volunteers from the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario to give their time and expertise to help inpatient and outpatient clients with their taxes. Clients are guided through the tax filing process – from the initial document preparation, up until the meeting with the accountant, and are supported throughout this potentially daunting task.
This is what eight years of tax forms looks like
“We actually found out that going back to 2008, my taxes had to be done manually!” remarks Sean after a marathon two-and-a-half hour tax filing session at the Client Tax Clinic. “But the accountant Piyush (Aggarwal) knew exactly what he was doing. I’m glad this service was available, because this would’ve been another year that I don’t get my taxes done, and I didn’t realize it would go this smoothly.”
While Sean’s example is an extreme one, this is a scenario that clients at CAMH regularly face. For some, the act of preparing to file taxes can become paralyzing, stress-inducing events that often lead to procrastination, and eventually, exasperated resignation.
“This is a lesson learned – this is never going to happen again, I can tell you that right now,” says Sean. “I’m taking all of the guidance from these programs so I can go in the right direction. I’m just grateful for the help that was offered here.”
With this burden off his chest, Sean is looking towards brighter days ahead.
“After this, now I can go through (recovery) with a clear mind, then I’ll be alright. Then I can get back to work, get back to the gym, I should be fine.”
Other clients have been using this free service for years.
“I’ve never paid to have my taxes done,” says another client, who’s currently an outpatient at CAMH. She’s been a CAMH client for years and has made many friends and acquaintances in her time here, including David Kennedy, the CPA volunteer who is doing her taxes today. “Every year, I see the same professional accountant, David, and he’s been great.”
“I used to always do taxes myself, but with the clinic here, it’s just easier… I don’t have to worry. The accountants can get it all done in 10, 15 minutes, whereas I would spend a couple hours, and had to make sure to double-check and triple-check it. This is easier.”
“I’m not good handling stress anymore, and that’s why I’m at CAMH,” she adds.
There was a slight change in mood and a sense of relief on the faces of clients as they left the tax clinic.. Many of these clients have a long way to go in their recovery journey, but it’s evident that this clinic has done its part in at least alleviating some stress.
Aside from the staff in CAMH’s Social Determinants of Health Service, Certified Professional Accountant volunteers are the unsung heroes of CAMH’s Annual Tax Clinic
Albert Einstein once said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
And while he never cracked the code to simplifying taxes, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that a little help during tax season can go a long way.