Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Final Countdown

April 17th is fast approaching.  For taxpayers who owe money to the IRS, time is running out to file that dreaded form of financial ruin. I, on the other hand, am filled with hope and counting down the days until my Thursday nights are once again free of obligation. One more week...but I first have to make it through today.  If this image looks familiar, it's because I've used it before in this blog...and it does a pretty good job of summarizing how the evening went:

I thoroughly enjoyed the early March tax season lull, but experienced volunteers warned me that the final weeks would be crunch time.  And sure enough, crunched I was.  Why is it that the people with the most horribly complicated returns come out of the woodwork in April?  Tonight, the random process of assigning of taxpayers to volunteers left me with a guy who hadn't filed a return since 2005.  Uh oh...

As I tried to dig into the details to complete his long-overdue 2008 return, a real life soap opera unraveled before my eyes.  I uncovered stories of a failed marriage, spousal unemployment fraud, complete with detectives and state investigations. All the while, I tried to navigate my way through an ancient version of the standard tax software.  Eventually the site director and a few other "experts" were pulled into the drama, with several unsuccessful attempts to call the main office to figure out how to handle this unique situation.

We eventually came to the conclusion that this guy had to straighten some things out with the IRS before we could file the return.  That didn't relieve me from my duty to help with two other years worth of overdue returns.  By the time it was all said and done, I was two hours deep and raging with hunger, and one of his old tax forms had mysteriously disappeared, apparently swallowed by the mountain of tax forms littering the tabletop. Taxpayers aren't too thrilled when they lose a document with their social security number printed on it.  Luckily, hours later the form turned up, inexplicably stapled to another form...the ghosts of tax season strike again...

After that mess, I thought I was surely done for the evening. But it would seem that all those early exits the past few weeks came back to bite me on the backside in a big way. Another taxpayer was sent my way, carrying the full gamut of tax forms for IRAs, property taxes, health insurance, charitable contributions, and everything else from a tax preparer's worst nightmare.  At least there was only one year's return to prepare this time...

I broke a few unfortunate personal tax records this evening:
  • Oldest return I've ever worked on (four years old - 2008)
  • Longest time spent with one taxpayer (~2 hours)
  • Fewest people helped in one evening (2)
  • Latest time completing the final return of the evening (8:45PM)
  • Latest exit from the site (?:??PM - hopefully PM - this one's still pending...I'm writing this blog post as I sit and wait for the dreaded backlog at the reviewer table to work itself out)
It's currently 9:30PM, and I have no prospect of getting out of here anytime soon.  A healthy pile of returns still sits on the reviewer table, and my final taxpayer of the evening was the last person in line, which means that I'll be the last to leave.  The room is usually deserted by this time of the evening, but it's still a bustling place on this unfortunates evening:

This was hardly the way I'd hoped the evening would go, especially with a trip to Iowa on the agenda tomorrow.  Next Thursday marks the eleventh and final evening of my taxing efforts.  Then I adorn myself in the triumphant T-shirt of tax season:

But for now, I must give in to exhaustion and bitterness, end this post, and refocus my efforts on staring blankly at the reviewer table...

No comments:

Post a Comment