My Life as a Volunteer Tax Preparer – Vol. 3.3
I’ve been negligent in writing about my recent experiences at the AARP Tax-Aide volunteer office. I will attempt to catch you up on the interesting (often joyful, sometimes depressing) stories of the taxpayers I have been helping. I will start with today’s session and then work backwards to catch-up.I met with five taxpayers today, four single women (divorced or widowed) and one single man (never married). Two of the women arrived using walkers, moving very slowly. One of them was 90 years old. She had a younger family member with her to assist with the tax prep process. The woman was very friendly and in good spirits despite being somewhat confused about what was in her purse. (We were looking for her checkbook, a concept that she had trouble grasping.) As she was leaving, I told her I looked forward to seeing her next year. She made the usual response about not being sure that she – at age 90 – would last another year. I remarked that she looked good and that every day for folks in our older age groups was a good day. She smiled back and said “when you are 90, every day is a long day.” I interpreted that to mean that while she was content, it would not bother her one bit if the good Lord moved her on the to the next life.
The other lady in a walker was “only” 83. She told me that she was only using the walker because she had recently tripped and hurt her knee. I asked her if she expected to be rid of the walker soon. That’s when her daughter spoke up, suggesting that her Mom would indeed get better. She explained that her Mom has had one knee replaced, both hips replaced, both shoulder-joints replaced (one twice), and recently recovered from a broken pelvis. A twisted knee was nothing in comparison. I liked that attitude.
My day ended on a down note. A 66-year old single gentlemen arrived with a 6-inch think stack of financial documents. His income consisted of $8800 in Social Security payments and a small amount of bank interest. He was so broke he could not even afford the premiums for Medicare Part B coverage. The rest of his papers pertained to failed investments, most of which appeared to be Ponzi schemes that some broker in Texas had gotten this fellow into. Originally they were paying the promised 11% returns but that money dried up and his principal balances disappeared. He suffered 6-figure losses.
After quickly determining that he did not have enough income to file a return, I tried to make suggestions about pursuing claims for compensation on the fraudulent investments and getting help from the state because his income was so low. Luckily he owned his home but he needed to be on food stamps and get help with no-premium Medicare. He looked like he was one more piece of bad news away from jumping off a bridge. I asked if he had family. He said he had two brothers in Ohio but they hadn’t spoken in several years. Wow. At that point, I asked the folks at the senior citizen center to connect this gentlemen with a social worker. I hope he finds the help he needs.
Count your blessings, folks, and if anyone ever offers you a guaranteed 11% return, run away as fast as you can.