For many of us, it’s easy to file a tax return with tax software or by paying a tax preparation company. But for people like Raeleen, a single parent of three, the financial burden of having her taxes prepared is overwhelming.
“The Salvation Army’s free tax clinic means I can put food on the table and pay my bills,” says Raeleen. “On a fixed income I have no money left over at the end of the month. To pay for my taxes to be filed means that our groceries are affected. That has happened a few times.”
Raeleen, 32, has spent most of her life struggling to overcome obstacles and heartache. Growing up, her mother ignored her needs and often left her in unsupervised and dangerous situations. And her step-father called her names, left physical marks and accused her of all sorts of things she didn’t do. At 15 she couldn’t tolerate life at home and left.
“I never felt loved or cherished,” says Raeleen. “At home there were no signs of affection like hugs or kisses. Over time, what I suffered made me strong and I promised myself I’d never let my children hurt the way I did.”
Today, Raeleen is a single parent of three children ranging from ages three to 14. When the children’s father became less and less involved in their lives she left Hamilton for Dunnville, Ont., and a fresh start.
“Starting over was one of the toughest things I’ve done,” says Raeleen. “The Salvation Army helped me turn my life around.”
Raeleen has clothed her family with low-cost items from The Salvation Army thrift store. When her expenses have outweighed her income from social assistance the Army’s food bank has put food on her table and a weekly visit to her neighbourhood from the Army’s food truck provides her children with healthy snacks.
No matter how thrifty Raeleen is there are times when she can’t make her budget work. The tax season is particularly stressful for her and the Army’s free tax clinic not only eases her financial strain, but filing her claim means she can possibly qualify for other benefits.
Matt Saunders, a chartered accountant, has volunteered at the Army’s tax clinic in Oshawa, Ont., for many years. “The need for this free service is critical,” says Matt. “If people can’t afford to have their tax forms completed, they don’t file. And the impact of not filing means they don’t qualify for the GST credit, property tax credit or child tax benefits. That can add up to more than $100 dollars a month in someone’s pocket. That’s substantial for people who are hurting financially.”
“The Salvation Army helps reduce the stress in my life,” says Raeleen. “Their resources and support give me strength to combat the many challenges that come with single-parenting. I am truly grateful.”