Faithfully serving his country for 23 years didn’t earn him any special treatment from the IRS; fortunately, a U.S. veteran living in Germany found a guardian angel in Intuit® tax professional Ivon Valentine.
Ivon’s story about helping the veteran file more than 10 years of returns and receive a $15,000-plus refund was chosen as a grand prize-winning entry in the Intuit Professional Tax Meet the Difference Makers Contest this fall.
While working at a free tax center in Germany a few years back, Ivon watched as the veteran entered the office and set down an old briefcase.
“I’m in trouble,” the veteran told her. “I haven’t filed for 10 years.”
The challenges facing the soon-to-be-retired ex-serviceman didn’t end there. His government post was being closed out and his wife was also set to retire within the year.
“Because he had not filed for more than 10 years, the IRS had garnished his retirement account and was working its way monthly through his retirement pay,” Ivon wrote in her contest entry. “With a tax debt at a little over $66,000 and growing, someone needed to help.”
“He had letters and letters and letters,” recalled Ivon. “It wasn’t easy. I was getting phone calls from the IRS in the middle of the night because of the time difference in Germany. We encountered lots of rough patches, but it got better.”
Over the course of the next nine months, Ivon helped the veteran better understand his responsibilities as a citizen living abroad. “We spent many hours hand-in-hand, getting those last 10-plus years filed,” she said. “That was enough to stop the garnishment and reward him a substantial refund of the seized funds.”
Ivon learned that the veteran’s obstacles to filing his taxes had been two-fold: a lack of tax knowledge and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
“He did not understand his responsibilities as a taxpayer,” she explained. “Ten years ago, there was very little information out there to support and educate overseas American workers. Not only did he not know how to pay taxes, but he also didn’t know how to claim for his children. He never put them on his returns.”
Ivon felt that sharing this particular client story in the contest was important because it shows how avoiding tax responsibilities “can bring devastation to your life,” as she put it. “Here is someone who served his country for 23 years, but because he simply didn’t know how to file returns, it was ruining his personal and financial life. The associated stress had affected him physically, as well.”
Ivon was happy to bring the required clarity to the veteran’s case. Although her service was free, the veteran was motivated to pay a substantial portion of what her assistance would have cost if billed.
A tax professional for 17 years, Ivon’s main focus is return preparation for individuals, but she also offers bookkeeping services (her degree in accounting comes in handy here), as well as tips and advice on tax benefit strategies, or, as she puts it, “the best way to make your refund work for you.”
“I deliver on getting the most for my clients,” she said. “I love that I make a difference in their financial lives. When you help people with debt, it can be life changing.”
Ivon feels that winning one of the grand prize packages in the contest will definitely make a difference for her practice.
“The advertising (designed and paid for by Intuit) is the most exciting part,” she said. “It is a piece that I’ve needed for a while to support my business and bring awareness to my practice.”
Ivon is a longstanding Intuit customer who most appreciates how her software, pre-loaded with client data, makes it easier to prepare each new annual return.
“I like business products that help me save time and be efficient,” she explained. “It’s easy. Clients often ask ‘Do you need my information?’ But I don’t. I don’t need to start over.”
That simplicity allows Ivon to focus on helping clients, such as her overseas veteran, make a new start.