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Mr. Marsh Tries to File His Taxes

My last tax client this season was Mr. Marsh (not his real name), one of those spry octogenarians who was probably being carded straight up through his 50th birthday. A really pleasant gentleman, he’d made an effort to dress nattily and he spoke engagingly. When I began frowning over the calculations, he asked, “Can I talk to you while you do that?”

“Probably not a good idea if you want a refund,” I said with a smile. “But I left some magazines in the waiting room if you’re looking for something to read –“

“Oh, I love to read!” said Mr. Marsh.

As a sidebar, I’ll note that one of the great benefits of TaxBwana is that it gave me a place to recycle my stacks and stacks and stacks of New Yorkers. I like The New Yorker, but I’m always conflicted about resubscribing because I don’t actually want stacks and stacks and stacks of New Yorkers around the house. They take up a lot of room. I’d be quite content with digital access!

The magazines are really well designed and printed on expensive, high-gloss stock, so I always feel guilty throwing them in the recycling bin. I’ve taken to driving around after dark, looking for laundromats and other places where humans are held captive by mundane tasks that might be lightened by diversion so I can dump them and feel that I’ve benefitted mankind somehow.

Anyhoo

Mr. Marsh had a complicated tax situation on account of he had a wife who was confined to her bed and required a lot of nursing care and expensive pharmaceuticals. With the help of an attorney, he’d converted her small 401k into a trust and had taken $20,000 out of that trust in 2017.

I’m perfectly capable of handling Schedule Ks, but TaxBwana doesn’t allow me to handle Schedule Ks. It is – in our quaint TaxBwana argot – out of scope.

Plus either Mr. Marsh had forgotten to bring in the 1099 associated with the disbursement, or the financial institution responsible for administering the trust had forgotten to mail it to him because Mr. Marsh did not have it. He had everything else in that battered manila envelope he carted around with him. Receipts for Mrs. Marsh’s denture creams. Obscure purchases of This Is WWII CDs that somehow counted as charitable contributions because he’d bought them through an NPR subsidiary. But not the 1099 from the trust.

What to do?

I conferred with Hewitt.

Hewitt extracted a phone number from one of the multipage trust documents Mr. Marsh did bring in, and we proceeded to plug Mr. Marsh into the phone with his credit union. Of course the person on the other end of the line didn’t have the foggiest idea of what Mr. Marsh was talking about plus it was Saturday.

“You want to take out $20,000?” she kept asking. “That’s a lot of money to take out on a weekend. You’ll have to call back on a Monday.”

“Can’t do it!” Hewitt said, shrugging. “It’s out of scope! He looks familiar –“

“He still works,” I said. “At the age of 81. Can you imagine? As a supermarket checkout clerk.”

“At Bops! Right! That’s where I’ve seen him before!” said Hewitt.

Mr. Marsh didn’t work full time, of course, and when I totaled up his and the invalided Mrs. Marsh’s entire incomes, they came to just over $24,000 with Social Security, his Bops wages, and the proceeds of a tiny pension.

The financial institution that administered the tiny pension was very responsible and had taken $1,000 out as federal withholding. That and the tiny Bops federal withholding were the only reasons for Mr. Marsh to file his taxes. He’d get $1,500 back, and that would be a significant amount for him.

I sighed.

I went back to my TaxBwana station to deliver the bad news.

“Can’t you just pretend you don’t know about the trust?” Mr. Marsh begged.

“I can’t,” I said. “Because I do know about the trust.”

I thought he was going to burst into tears.

And my heart was just breaking for him. Looking at him, I figured he’d had a colorful life. His health insurance was covered by the VA, so veteran. Maybe Korea? He looked like someone who’d liked to laugh a lot, who’d probably held a lifetime of jobs that were beneath his intelligence level because his real life was outside those jobs.

But here he was. Eighty-one years old and his favorite person to party with had turned into a carcass on a bed. How do you party with an albatross?

It was all just so hideously unfair.

I did the best I could for him. Printed him out extension forms: “You have till Tuesday to send these in. And by my calculations, you don’t owe anything on your 2017 taxes, so there should be no issue with an extension. That will buy you three months.

“And on Monday, you need to go into the credit union that set up the trust for you –“

“Can’t I just phone?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Your call. But if it were me, I’d go in there, and I’d grab the person who set up the trust –“

“Lynda,” he said weakly.

“Lynda,” I said. “I’d grab her and make her get on the phone with the financial institution so that they’ll send you a 1099. Then you can file your taxes.”

He looked hopeful. “Maybe they can even fax me the form, and I can come in on Tuesday –“

“No. This is our last day of doing taxes.”

He looked horrified. “So, wait. I’m going to have to pay to get my taxes done?”

“I’m afraid so.”

How much?”

I murmured something. H.R. Block charges customers $100 per form. He would need to have at least seven forms printed out.

It just kills me that someone who is 81 years old and is obviously struggling to be a good, responsible person and do the best job he can do isn’t getting more support. From somewhere.

This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org/696953.html. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
gansje
Apr. 15th, 2018 11:40 pm (UTC)
Oh god, that's awful!

I can help with the expense of pharmaceuticals, at least. There are options, not least from pharmaceutical companies, to lower co-pays to negligible amounts and to help cover the remainder of out-of-pocket costs for medications [not] covered by Medicare part D.

If you send me the state he lives in, I will compile a list of resources and send them to you to give to him. At least we can help him in that way.
mallorys_camera
Apr. 22nd, 2018 03:02 pm (UTC)
Ah, that's a nice thought!

I'd have no way of getting hold of this gentleman again, though. During tax season, I volunteer as a tax preparer for a program that does returns for free, but otherwise I have no contact with the clients whose returns I prepare.

This guy definitely needs help, though. So I hope someone in the social service grid catches that.
mexpatriot
Apr. 16th, 2018 02:15 am (UTC)
As sad as it can be at times, you are doing a real good here. You are helping. If I lived in the US, I would probably be coming to you for tax help. :)
mallorys_camera
Apr. 22nd, 2018 03:00 pm (UTC)
I feel as though I am helping, yes. Giving straightforward, practical assistance that saves people money. And that's the best type of help! :-)
mexpatriot
Apr. 23rd, 2018 01:14 am (UTC)
People always want to make some grand gesture, to save the world. Most don't realize that this is the way to do it. It's seemingly small things, giving straightforward, practical assistance that saves people money, that saves the world.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )