My Experience as a Tax Preparer
I have taken on a variety of jobs since I left The Corporation, and one of them was being a tax preparer for one tax season. I won't mention the name of the company, because I don't think it is relevant to the story. It is not the one in the picture. Although I am sure all of these tax preparation services are different from each other, I have a strong feeling that they have many similarities.
I had always done my own taxes, so I did not have any prior experience with tax preparation services, but I thought it would be a good way to help people, learn some things that may help me with my own taxes, and potentially get a job that would last me until my preferred job became available.
I had talked with someone who had been a tax preparer, and she had stated that it was a reasonable job. There was an hourly rate of pay, and you could get a profit sharing bonus at the end of the year. She was not happy with unethical practices, since she felt that many people were cheating on their taxes.
Training as a Tax Preparer
I read an ad that said that I could go to tax school to learn to become a tax preparer. There was a possibility that if I did well, they would hire me to work for them. There was some kind of discount on these classes. Unfortunately, it was coming close to tax season, and I really wanted the job. I paid for the tax classes. I knew that I could get free classes, but I didn't know how to go about getting the free ones. They did say that if I was hired, I would be required to take the class every year, and would not have to pay for future classes.
There were several weeks of classes, and the training was very helpful in learning how to do taxes. I have done my own taxes all my life, and have helped others with theirs, but there was still a lot of information to learn all at once about different tax situations. You were allowed to use your resources to do the quizzes, and I was proud to be able to do well on all of them. Most of my classmates were struggling, even though it was an open book test. Some of them missed some classes, and although they could attend another class to make up for the one they missed, I am pretty sure they did not do that.
Because they call it tax school, they get away with not paying you for attending the training you need to do the job.
Getting Hired as a Tax Preparer
In order to become a tax preparer, you need to pass an open book test. It was difficult to find all the information from different parts of the book, and put together different tax concepts, but I managed to pass the test. You could take it twice more if you did not pass. I saw that many people were receiving specific assistance that I would call cheating. They wanted to help as many people pass as possible.
We didn't get a lot of training on how to use the tax software, which was the main part of the job. There was some additional paid training about office practices.
Since the office had been closed for most of the year, we had to clean up the office and get it ready for the tax season. We got the supplies we needed, but the manager was very hesitant to do repairs or anything in the back.
Tax Refund Anticipation Loans
Since the first day the office opened to the public, it was very hectic. The office was understaffed. They were offering a tax refund anticipation loan, and many people came to get it. They were willing to borrow money against their tax refund and pay the exorbitant interest rates to do it. There was a long line, and we had to learn the software and do the taxes very quickly to keep the line moving. The manager brought some fast food so we could eat something. There were no breaks, not even for lunch. The lines lasted for several days until everyone who wanted one of these loans got one.
Taxes and More Loans
Eventually, the traffic calmed down. People started getting their W-9s and we were doing actual taxes. People could still borrow against their refund. Even though the tax refund would only take a couple of weeks to get in, people were willing to pay incredible interest rates to get their money. By this time payday lending had already been in the news, and laws had been written to restrict that.
The people who came into the office were not rich people. The office was in a poor part of town, and most people came to the office with small incomes and children that helped them get the earned income credit. These were not people who had money to waste, yet they were willing to get the loan. Even if they hadn't gotten a loan, they still paid more than $100 for tax preparation service which they could have done themselves for free.
Even when they got their loan or refund check, instead of going to a bank, they went someplace where they would have to pay to cash the check.
Eventually the traffic died down. Instead of keeping the tax preparers until April 15, they let half of the staff go. The manager said they did this every year. I would have been very angry if I had been one of the people that was let go after going to school for so long. Although there was no guarantee of employment, you would think that you would have the job for the tax season unless you did something wrong, which was not the case.
The month of March was very quiet, but eventually people who procrastinated doing their taxes came to get them done in April. Even then, many people chose to get a loan instead of waiting for the check to come in. I worked until the end of the season, April 15th. The company decided it did not have enough profit to share at the end of the year. I chose not to work for the tax preparation service again.