She carried a large manila folder that was bursting at the seams. It held copies of paper tax returns. Letters upon letters from the IRS. It held income documents. It also held a part of her that she had lost… her daughter.
As a tax professional, I am used to listening. I am used to educating. I am used to advising. So when she started to tell me about how she filed a few priors year herself and got the first letter from the IRS and disregarded further mail and filing requirements, I, of course, began to explain why it was important and blah, blah, blah. She then started to tell me about her ex-husband, her divorce, and finally, her daughter. I listened intently, all while sorting her paperwork according to year and having her open all of her IRS mail so I could attach them to the corresponding tax year paperwork.
She told me about how she and her daughter used to walk hand in hand down the streets of Bayonne. How they were more like sisters than mother and daughter. How they shared a bond that was unbreakable. And then she told me how she lost her daughter when she moved across the country to live with her ex-husband (her daughter’s father). With tears in her eyes, she told me much how she misses her daughter. How much she misses the bond they shared. She said she hadn’t spoken to her daughter in months. I simply said, “Call her.”
As I sat and looked through the paperwork, I started to re-create the returns that she had done herself so I could amend them. I invited her to sit next to me instead of in front of me so I could show her what I was doing, what I was amending, and how I was helping her tax situation. I explained to her that because her daughter had lived with her and she provided all of her support until she decided to move with her father (she was 19), she could be claimed as a dependent. I explained to her that up until that time, because she had paid qualified education expenses, that she could also claim an education credit as well as qualify for the Earned Income Credit. I explained to her that when you do not file tax returns on time, the IRS taxes you at the highest tax rate, so even though her filing status is Head of Household, she was being taxed as single with no dependents. During this time, I learned a lot about my client, a lot about her divorce, and a lot about her daughter. Talking about her daughter would bring tears to her eyes. I would listen. Offer tissue. And simply say, “You should call her.”
As I sat in that office for hours past my scheduled shift, I worked year, after year, after year. I typed. I listened. I educated. I listened. I advised. I listened. And by the time I was complete, she did NOT owe the IRS, the IRS owed her.
As I stepped in the back to gather all of her paperwork, make necessary copies, and create her client packets, she stepped out. She came back about a half hour later with a big smile on her face. She said to me, with tears in her eyes “Thank you so much for this afternoon! I had no idea that there was a way out of this! You have no idea what you have done for my life! Can I have your supervisor’s email address? I’d like to write him and tell him about how great you are and how you have blessed my life! Thank you for being my tax angel” I provided her with his email address. When I handed her the paperwork, she gave me the biggest hug and vowed to return next year.
She did send the email to the franchise owner. He let me know that I’d created a raving fan! I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary. I educated. I advised. I listened. I have since moved on from my position as General Manager in Bayonne, NJ and I am now the General Manager of a location in Norfolk, VA. Before I left NJ, I ran into this client at my local ShopRite. She hugged me, thanked me again, and before we parted ways, said to me, “Guess what? I called my daughter.”
Author: Patrina Felts
Bio: My name is Patrina Felts and I am the General Manager of a Liberty Tax® location in Norfolk, VA. Prior to this, I was the General Manager for 3 locations in Bayonne, NJ. I am now headnig into my 6th tax season with Liberty.