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IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE: It's the SU doing your tax returns, free of charge.
Patricia Fuentes/The Gauntlet

Death and the Taxman

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Of the two certainties in life, the Volunteer Tax Program can at least help students with one. The program sponsored by the Students' Union, is a student-run program which provides tax services to University of Calgary students free of charge.

"The actual process that occurs for students is bringing in their information," said Director of the Volunteer Tax Program Mark Hoekstra "Their T4's, tuition slips, and any other investment forms. They bring in their information and sign it in to us."

From this point, the tax return is taken through a three-step verification process which involves teaming inexperienced student volunteers with experienced ones.

"We have newer volunteers who will verify the return once and possibly twice," said Auditing/Electronic-File Coordinator Kelly Timm. "Another person will verify it and then a different person will go over it. The third verification is done by an experienced volunteer or someone who's taken a specific accounting course in taxation. After that, they do it in good with pen."

Hoekstra adds that though it is a relatively standardized process, there is supervision at some levels by the Canada Customs and Revenue Program. Before students can volunteer, they must complete a training session.

"The training session is really good," said Hoekstra. "CCRA comes in and they go line by line in the return and show everyone exactly what each line is for and why it's there. By the time they're done the training session and have been through every line, they know what's going on."

Also stressed is the practical part of the job as the bulk of the learning takes place at this level.

"In the training you can't cover everything," said Timm. "That's why there are always opportunities to ask questions while processing a return."

The time required to process the return usually depends on when students bring in their information. Generally, students are encouraged to bring in relevant information as soon as possible to avoid the rush.

"At the beginning of the program it's [processing the return] really quick because we don't get going until the first couple of weeks," said Timm. "It probably takes less than a week to get the return done. When we get really busy it can take up to two weeks or possibly more for the whole process to happen."

When students come in and pick-up their return, a Customer Client volunteer explains the process and answers any questions they may have regarding the tax return.

"The mandate of the program is primarily to help others," said Hoekstra "We're just trying to give volunteers practical experience and help students out on campus."

First-year General Studies student Anastasia Stawn finds the program appealing because it is free.

"I do most of my taxes through my mother," said Stawn. "But I think it's a really great service to offer students."

Students can begin dropping off income Tax Returns from Mar. 6 to Apr. 12 in MacEwan Hall 206. For more information, phone 220-3367 or e-mail: vstax@ucalgary.ca.

Submissions may be handed in to the SU office by Mar. 15, 2000.

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