November 2018 – Arlene Grove

For November, MVLS is recognizing one of our most dedicated volunteers, Arlene Grove. Arlene was hesitant at first to volunteer, especially since she was already busy with so many other volunteer activities, including volunteering at the local food bank.  But one day, Arlene met a client there which she thought could benefit from MVLS’ services, so she jumped on-board.  In her short time as a MVLS volunteer since joining in November 2017, she has already taken on 5 clients.  As soon as she finishes one, she takes on another – and sometimes doesn’t even wait!  Recognizing that our clients often have transportation issues, Arlene often goes to them.  She has prepared and amended countless numbers of back tax returns, without judgment, to help her clients become compliant.  She is a tireless advocate for our clients and MVLS is lucky to have her. Arlene is an excellent example that enrolled agents can be great advocates for our clients in the tax realm.

1. Why do you choose to volunteer with MVLS?

I encountered many individuals, in my regular EA practice, who found themselves in extreme difficulty after utilizing unprepared preparers for their tax returns, some registered and some not.  Their failure to submit correct returns caused havoc, fear, and isolation in their clients’ lives.  In every case, there was a huge debt that could have been avoided or actually wasn’t a debt at all.  Then I ran into a couple of people I wanted to help but didn’t have the experience to quickly try all the options, and didn’t have the time to spend on all the details without being paid in some way.  I heard of this option from Janice Shih, and it met several needs: I could get the training under supervision, I had access (free!) to the legal minds that deal with complex tax issues on both state and federal level, and I could “practice” on cases where the taxpayer really needed relief that was unaffordable, all during the time of year when I could give full attention to the complex situations that had to be addressed.

2. Do you have any stand out stories?

My first case was the introduction I needed to dig in and stay with MVLS.  Totally misused by unprepared preparers, a medically retired fireman was under heavy debt letters from IRS and MD due to mismanagement of his information for more than five years.  What should have been a simple exemption for spending an early retirement withdrawal for exceptional health, education, and house expenses, became instead a tax debt about which he was uninformed.  The small business he started was never reported, nor were his expenses, and everything worsened.  Clarification and an Offer in Compromise were the solutions: multiple amended returns, and several conferences with MVLS staff later, the fireman made five $20 payments and no longer owed IRS anything.  And I loved being a part of seeing his life turn around.

3. What is your favorite part about volunteering with MVLS?

Watching the lines disappear from the foreheads of taxpayers who never deserved to be that confused…hearing them sigh with genuine relief, gratefulness, and hope.

4. Why should other attorneys do pro bono?

There is every reason to stay in touch with people who have lives we could not have imagined would become so oppressed, over simply trying to comply with rules.  Our lives do not begin and end with our circle of social acquaintances, nor should theirs.