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Income tax time can become more stressful with age

By WENDY JOHNSTONE January 24, 2013 · 3:34 PM
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One of best decisions I made in last year was to have a professional prepare my income tax.

I was recently reminded of the stress income tax time created for me and those within arm's length during a consult with an 85-year-old widow last week.

She called me initially to discuss her increasing need for services and was struggling to understand what her extended health benefits covered, what she was eligible for publicly and what type of private services she could afford.

As we started wading through her massive pile of paper, receipts and statements, she confided that she finds dealing with her financial situation, increasing care needs and "tax time" incredibly stressful.

She knows she is eligible for certain community programs but is also aware that she isn't sick enough to utilize health care services. She also knows that there are tax credits that apply to her situation but she has no idea where to go for help.

One of the areas I can help families and seniors with is creating a plan that factors an individual's current income level, extended health care benefits and other benefits such as Veteran's Affairs and eligibility for publicly funded services.

While I can help families and seniors understand the costs associated with care, now and in the future, I'm not much help when it comes to dealing with income tax questions. Thankfully, I know someone who can help!

Daryl Robbins, a CGA and public notary, will be at our fingertips to give us some great information on tax credits for seniors and caregivers. You can watch for his column over the next few weeks.

I'll leave with you the only two good tips I know about income tax preparation:

• Get help filing your return.

If you are unable to complete your income tax return yourself, the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) may be able to help. The CRA trains CVITP volunteers who can complete your tax return for you if your income is low and your tax situation is simple.

Volunteers do not complete tax returns for more complex situations such as filing returns for deceased persons; individuals who file for bankruptcy; self-employed individuals; individuals who report capital gains or losses, etc.

Evergreen Seniors (Filberg Centre) have a year-round program.  Call 250-338-1000 to find out more information on the days and time of the service.

If you are looking for other locations in B.C., you can go to the CRA website at www.cra.gc.ca/volunteer or call 1‑800‑959‑8281. They typically start posting information in February.

• Get your tax publications in different formats.

If you or a loved one have a visual impairment, you can get tax publications in Braille, large print, in CD or MP3 formats by going to www.cra.gc.ca/alternate or by calling 1‑800‑959‑2221.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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