My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Week 9

April 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Taxes

I had five appointments this week. The first was a no-call, no-show. I hate that, because I could have stayed at the office and worked on projects that I can bill to clients. I brought my laptop with me to try to get some more work done but there was no public wireless network for me to connect to. As long as we are dumping trillions in tax dollars into public “infrastructure”, could the public please have WiFi internet access in public buildings? I refuse to pay monthly for a private wireless data card for my laptop when I already pay for cable internet in one house, DSL internet in our vacation home, plus a data plan for my cell phone. I’m getting a sense that the wireless companies are quietly but vigorously lobbying state, local, and federal governments against providing financial support for public wireless access points in and around public buildings.

This was school teacher week. It seems like the word has gotten out within our local public school systems that teachers should take advantage of the Tax Aide free tax preparation service. Three came to see me this week. One was completely retired, one was not retired (and younger than me), and the third was my age and double-dipping.

I’m starting to learn what sweet deals many of these public employees have when they “retire.” This week’s double-dipper had been retired for a whopping three days before she was called back for the first of a series of “90 day contracts.” Basically, she was rehired at the same salary for the same job but on a 90-day contract so that the school system and employee could pretend that she was really “retired.” The 90-day contracts have now lasted for three years. She is making the same amount of money plus getting retiree healthcare and a pension that is almost as large as her salary. I can’t really blame folks for taking these deals if they are offered. I just think that this obvious manipulation of a taxpayer funded system needs to be better controlled. It has to be enormously expensive. It also restricts the number of jobs that are available to younger workers who have no pension to rely on.

One gentlemen-retiree came in with a boatload of debt, including first and second mortgages on his condo. He was working part-time at Lowe’s to make ends meet. I had heard that Lowe’s was one employer that had adopted employment policies that were senior-friendly so I asked him how he liked working there. He said that Lowe’s was a great place to work. In particular, he was pleased that Lowe’s had put him in a customer service job where he could sit down most of the day, taking a load off of his arthritic legs.

I met a delightfully upbeat and contented 79 year old woman who looked 15 years younger. It was apparent that she had been taking care of her health (or had very good genes). One of the ways that I enjoy ending my meetings with taxpayers is by telling them that I hope to see them again next year. Most of the older folks respond with a brief comment about whether they will live another year, even those who are healthy and optimistic. The pessimists seem resigned to death as an end to a sad life. The optimists are more accepting of death as a natural transition from one stage of contentment to another.

Finally, the strangest story I heard was from one of the other volunteers. The day before, a married couple arrived to have a joint return prepared, accompanied by an entourage. It seems that both husband and wife were deaf and each brought a sign-language assistant. The other member of the entourage was a court-appointed representative. This couple was in mid-divorce and not getting along. The court representative was there to insure that the court’s order to have the refund sent to the wife was carried out. Our small volunteer office was overflowing with people and anger. Apparently, husband and wife were vigorously signing at each other the entire time, mostly bickering about things having nothing to do with their tax return. The sign-interpreters felt obligated to vocalize all of it, despite requests by the volunteer to keep quiet. The entire mess took two hours, backing up appointments well into the afternoon. I would have thrown them out. Volunteer services are not to be exploited by bitter spouses, no matter what their disability.

That’s it for week 9. Two more to go then I will have to find another source of interesting stories about people and their money.

Thanks for reading.

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4 Responses to “My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Week 9”
  1. I’ve seen a number of fights between divorcing couples, but never one conducted through sign language and interpreters.

    I’ve really enjoyed your Volunteer Tax Preparer series. Keep up the good work (for the next two weeks, at least)!

  2. My Journey says:

    As a brother who is deaf – let me tell you…if you think screaming is bad, wait till you have angry sign language! Arms and hands going all over the place!

    Reading your stories, I think I’ll be doing the VITA program next year. Maybe pull out a few CLEs from it.

  3. What I like about being a VITA volunteer is that the client comes in, you finish the return, they are happy (usually), they are grateful for the help, then they leave. Very clean and mostly rewarding.

  4. Troy says:

    Volunteering as a tax preparer is a great idea. Never thought such folks existed. But what if you get sued or IRS comes at you for incorrect filing. Do you get the signature from the client to absolve you of such cases.


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