My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Week 10

April 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Taxes

Things are winding down in the VITA – AARP Tax Aide Volunteer office. I say this for two reasons. First, the tax filing deadline is upon us, after which our office will close for the year. Second, the “no show” frequency is increasing.

This week I had five appointments. Two were no shows. One showed up two hours late. Another was a walk-in whom I helped because I had time.

For two of my appointments the problem was a return that had already been filed that was prepared incorrectly. One return had been completed by another preparer who somehow managed to calculate the tax incorrectly. Not sure how that happened since that is probably the easiest thing to do on a return, after you arrive at the taxable income.

The other mistake was made by the taxpayer himself. He suspected that he had used the wrong standard deduction amount for him and his wife. He asked me to review the return and indeed, he had neglected to increase the standard deduction amount in recognition that they were both over-65. So I sent him on his way with instructions on how to file an amended return. He has some work to do as he thinks that he had made this same mistake in prior years. I don’t know why folks like this don’t spend a few minutes to use tax preparation software, much of which is free and online.

One pattern that continued this week was that seniors with money in the market have been getting out. Two of my appointments reported capital losses on their returns because they had sold all of their mutual funds in late 2008. Now that money is sitting in a bank account or CD. That won’t help much over the long term but it gives them some peace of mind.

One of my appointments is so nervous about his money that he won’t even put money in the bank. He did not want his refund direct-deposited, preferring a check that he could convert to cash directly. He is 86. I hope he isn’t that nervous about other aspects of his life.

One more week and then my career as a volunteer tax preparer will come to a temporary end. I’m predicting  I will have some interesting experiences with last minute filers next week. I will be one of them!

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