My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer Ch. 3.1
Yesterday I began year 3 of my life as a volunteer tax preparer. It was good to be back at the senior citizens center and working with friendly taxpayers. Actually, for many, the more correct term would be “tax filers” because they don’t end up paying any income taxes.
My first taxpayer was new to our program. She was in her late 50’s, working as a server in a private club, and living alone – except for her 14 year old niece, whom she supported. I asked about the parents of the niece, trying to determine if this nice lady could file as a head of household. She said that the father had disappeared and the mother (her sister) was unemployed and unable to care for her. There were no complaints about this. Unfortunately, the lack of specifics and complaints made me a little skeptical of the story I was given. She was able to produce the niece’s SS card so what else could I do?
The second taxpayer was another woman, age 61, living alone and working as a drug store clerk. Total 201o income: $12,050. Who can live on that and be happy about it? When I asked her if she had any other income, her answer included a question: “That’s it – not very much is it?” I dodged the question. I just hope she has a sizable Social Security benefit coming her way at age 62. She’s gonna need it.
Taxpayer three was a hoot. Female, 81 years old, maybe 5’2″ and 100lbs. Slightly confused but very chatty on a wide variety of topics. One topic she was not confused about: The Senior Olympics. As I was finishing her return, she remarked that she needed the weather to warm up so she could “get to the track.” I asked why she wanted to get to the track, thinking maybe she liked to walk there. Her answer was that she needed to train for the Senior Olympics. She was a long time competitor. Her specialties were badminton, javelin, discus, and shot-put. Can you imagine a diminutive 81 year old lady throwing the javelin, discus, and shot-put? I couldn’t. But she was very serious about it. She said she had won a gold medal in doubles badminton. Good for her.
Taxpayer four was a woman I had worked with for each of the prior two years. A public school teacher, divorced, with an adult son who was severely bipolar. The son now lived with his Dad, which seemed to make Mom happy or at least relieved. I was glad to see that this taxpayer was now contributing to a 403(b) plan to supplement what will be a decent teacher’s pension. She still spends way too much on her mortgage. She asked me whether we (the volunteers) ever did tax work for “young people.” I said that most of our clients were retired but we did not turn anyone away. I didn’t add that she was among the youngest we work with.
My final taxpayer was a nice older gentlemen who came in with a giant stack of papers, hoping that the stack included everything he needed. Sadly, it did not. He was missing a pension statement. So I had to send him home to return another day. That didn’t seem to bother him. Coming to the volunteer tax office was an activity that he seemed to enjoy.
Stay tuned for more stories from our senior taxpayers.