My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Season Finale

April 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Taxes

I finished my second tax season as a volunteer tax preparer. It was hectic with lots of last minute filers scrambling for appointments. I had several interesting experiences.

The first was with a retired man who came in without his wife. She was at home, disabled with diabetes and related maladies. The husband was in his late 60’s but still working full time as a patient transporter at a hospital. He said he was about worn out with the physical nature of the job. On top of that, he was quite unhappy with his wife, telling me that she was warned during her last hospitalization that when she returned home, she needed to get active or her health would decline further. According to the husband, she did not follow that advice. They had good insurance but were still spending lots of money on medical care. This was on top of first and second mortgages. He was the only truly unhappy “retiree” I worked with this year and it was all because his wife was a health care burden with no motivation to improve her lifestyle. The guy was just beat down physically and mentally.

My second last minute filer was remarkable in how unprepared he was for our meeting. He had enough medical expenses and charitable contributions to justify itemizing but he neglected to bring documentation. He spent most of our session attempting to gather the information by phone.

My third taxpayer was fascinating. He was 90 years old, living by himself in a home he bought 55 years ago. (His wife died 3 years ago.) He had two government pensions, one from the military. I inquired about his military service. He served 23 years active duty, then joined the National Guard, and then the Army Reserve, for total service of 35 years. He was a paratrooper and – get this – was jumping out of airplanes on training exercises at age 58! The other pension was from the Post Office. The final amazing fact related to his limp and cane. Last November he broke his hip. That’s not unusual for an older man, except for how he broke it. He told me that he installed a chin-up bar in his garage 40 years ago and used it regularly. On this occasion, he slipped dropping off the bar, causing the break. Chin-ups at 90? Can you imagine? Oh, and he contributed over $50,000 to his church last year. (Yes, I saw the signed letter.) When I told him that he couldn’t deduct all of it because it exceeded 50% of his income (meaning he still paid taxes), it didn’t bother him in the least. That is one tough guy, all the way around.

My final taxpayers were a retired married couple. They had minimal income from Social Security, did not pay any taxes, and did not need to file a return. They came in wondering if they were entitled to any refundable credits because they had cared for and supported two of their grandchildren for ten months last year. In November the two grandchildren were returned to their mother. This couple had cared for them for 14 years (one was 13 and one was 14). I asked if it was difficult to have them leave after all of that time. The grandmother said she thought it would be but then “peace broke out” in their house. She was enjoying a peaceful retirement, finally.

So that is the end of my volunteer taxpayer stories for 2010. I will be having lunch with the other volunteers next week as sort of a wrap-up party. If asked, I know I will return next year. There is so much I have learned from the folks I have assisted. I want to continue that education.

Thanks for reading. I hope that sharing these stories has benefited you.

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3 Responses to “My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Season Finale”
  1. Whitney says:

    I really loved these stories. I went back and read the series from last year, too. I hope you get invited back!

  2. Gail says:

    It’s encouraging to hear that all but one of your retired taxpayers appeared comfortable and happy (or at least content) despite living on a relatively modest income. And as Taxpayer #1 in this post demonstrates, good health for yourself and close family is just as important for a satisfying retirement as money.

  3. PW says:

    Thank you for sharing these stories again. I look forward each year.

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