The Marade and (Taxes) Opening Day
Monday was MLK Day, Americorps was celebrating with A Day on, not a Day Off by participating in the Marade (march/parade), in downtown Denver. We heard from a variety of religious leaders, and political leaders, including the mayor of Aurora, mayor of Denver, Governor of Colorado, and other congressman and city council members. For me at least, it was a crash course in state politics, haven’t not known anything about them previously- so that was kinda awkward. After the speeches and a tribute to the MLK statue in City Park, the marade began. Led by those that spoke, everyone that gathered was invited to join in the march/parade to the capital building. There was a wide variety of groups in the parade from charter schools and high school marching bands, to a hearse, to the Black Tea Party of Colorado and Coloradans for the legalization of marijuana. Overall, it was a beautiful day outside and I actually felt really good actually celebrating the day for the first time.
Fast-forward to Thursday, when, amidst a real lockdown at the community college where we have been taking our Accounting 132 course because the dinner a block and a half away got held up, I took my IRS Advanced Volunteer Tax Preparer test. I passed my certification test even though I was thinking about this during many classes:
Where on the 1040 does inheritance go? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXMR0SwQA8k
When learning about filing status: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYdsWtku9gg
Saturday was Opening day of Tax Help Colorado. Despite being really nervous the whole time because I was scared I was going to do something wrong, and screw up people’s fate, it was actually really exciting. I got to speak Spanish to a couple people and help explain the process and make sure the right information was being communicated. While I was immediately confronted with how rusty my Spanish is, I believe I was understood and able to communicate, so I think my efforts were helpful. I did about 4 returns in a hour before being pulled up to quality review, which is basically just another set of eyes double checking the return before it gets submitted. By far the most exciting part of the day for me, (yes, an exciting part about doing taxes), was helping a refugee family, who’s been in the country just over a year, get over $10,000 in federal tax returns and almost another $1,000 in state taxes. I was overjoyed at this after having seen the financial struggles of so many of my refugee clients last year during my internship at Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia. So it was pretty emotional for me because I know just how huge this is for them. I had to laugh a little bit when one of the site coordinators called me over when she saw their names on the list, thinking they needed Spanish assistance and a volunteer named Karen made a note about it. No, I said, that’s “Ka-Wren,” it’s a language.
I’ve been amazed at how much of my prior human services/pre-social work background I’ve been able to draw upon in tax prep, more so than my business minor background. I knew what an ITIN number was from one of my internships with a non-profit that worked with immigrants in Minneapolis. (ITIN is a number issued to non-citizens who do not have Social Security numbers but who worked in this country and are filing taxes here. The IRS does not report to Immigration, so there is no risk for deportation. In fact, filing taxes with ITIN will later be a huge help when applying for citizenship and a higher proportion of non-citizens file taxes than citizens). I’ve also drawn upon my time at Nationalities Service Center when we were discussing how welfare benefits (WIC, TANF, SSI, SSD-I) factor into taxes, or how our clients need them to make ends meet when we see that they can’t live on the income they make.
Taxes are also like social work in how you are dealing with and asking people probing, personal questions, there is a lot of “paperwork,” there is a lot of red-tape and exceptions/caveats to eligibility rules, and an intake must be completed and gone through before anything can even start.