Tax has always been my least favourite subject in the world. I never could get anything better than a C in University and it was the only exam I failed twice while doing my CPA.
When I moved from a Tax Haven country to Canada I realised I couldn’t run from Tax anymore. So I took my father’s advice and decided to master the subject that I once truly dreaded and joined a volunteer programme to help out with filing tax returns for people less fortunate than me. After all, majority of the CPA’s file tax returns for a living. So last year for the tax year 2012 I volunteered at a clinic and filed over 15 returns for senior citizens and yesterday I did over 25 returns at the same tax clinic for 2013.
Last night, as I walked into the retirement home, I felt like I had entered into a secret society of old people who were laughing about their arthritis and betting on whether they would make it to their next birthday. The topics seemed depressing but they seemed as happy as ever. After all, today they were getting their taxes done for free! As I hurried past the 40 seniors already waiting in line for the tax clinic to start, I could hear cheered whispers “yes another volunteer has arrived and this one looks so pretty”. I smiled, not because of the compliment and the fact that my other volunteers were older men with moustache’s but because there were 40 people actually awaiting my arrival! In a way, they made me feel important.
There was a brutal snow storm last night and our clinic was down from the usual 6 volunteers to just 3 including myself who managed to make it in. This meant longer hours and double the returns to do. I couldn’t complain, I was being offered tea and coffee, being thanked to no end and was made to feel like I had saved the day. I wonder who was doing who the favour here?
There were all kinds of people there for the clinic– the old, the disabled and even the super active one’s who looked like they could run a marathon. One of my first clients was Egyptian and born in 1923, she told me her story. She has been a widow since 62’ and never remarried, she had two boys and they had two son’s each and now she has 8 great granddaughters. ‘All of my Great Grandchildren are daughters!’ she exclaimed, she had a twinkle in her eye and pride in her voice when she said that. “With two sons of my own, I always always wanted daughters and now look God made me wait 3 generations to get my wish”. She was so appreciative after I did her taxes, thanked me and left.
One of my other clients was born in 1919 ! holy crap. I kept joking about how she would live up to a 100. She was Polish and she was having a tough time sitting down on the chair next to me. I helped her and she gave me a piece of chocolate (yum) and thanked me; But before she left she said “I doubt I”ll be seeing you next year”, to which I replied, “of course you are ! remember you have to hit 100?”.
But even though I may have sounded convincing, I didn’t feel so sure. After all only about 3/4th of the people who were my clients at the clinic last year did return this year…
This made me think about the stories and lives of the people who have retired –
That random old lady we might have brushed past the grocery store – Do her children respect and appreciate her?,
That old man who couldn’t cross the road – Did he lose his wife his sole companion at a young age?,
That elderly lady in front of the line who seems to be taking forever – did she just recently have a life threatening surgery?
or the Polish woman born in 1919 – will she be back for my tax clinic in 2015?
Then I think about our parents. Someday they will be old and grey too and I ask myself –
Will someone someday look at them and wonder about their story?