by Aileen Ramirez, El Popo Staff
Tax Professionals are essential workers too!
Another job title that the news failed to recognize as heroes who continued to work during this COVID-19 pandemic were tax professionals. Many individuals rushed to get their taxes done because they were going to be dependent on any refunds they may have received from the IRS and/or the FTB after many Americans lost their jobs.
Majority of these tax appointments can be done over the phone. All the tax preparer needs are all tax documents to be sent over via mail, email, fax, or personally dropped off with a number they can easily be reached. This is how HNR Clark, a tax office in Burbank, CA continued to operate his business. About 40% of HNR Clark’s appointments are already done over the phone; therefore, switching over ALL appointments to be done over the phone was a bit less chaotic than expected.
T’s Tax Services is a newly tax office in Burbank with majority of their clients being Latinos. The owner of the place is Teresa Ramirez and she is an enrolled agent. Many of her clients called as soon as we went into quarantine, with hopes to be seen that week or later. However, none were capable to do an appointment over the phone. Many of her clients do not have access to a fax machine or scanner to upload documents to a laptop/desktop, as David Lopez stated, “I’m sorry I don’t have an email, nor a laptop to forward my tax information.” The places that have these devices are temporarily closed. Those who have iPhones only use their smart phone to send calls and texts. They do not have an email of their own to even attach documents to send over. Albeit, their only other option was to wait until how long this quarantine lasts, and see if they could get an appointment before July 15 since the IRS and FTB gave a 90 day extension to file taxes. On another occasion, Joanna Silva had an appointment already scheduled for Monday, March 30, 2020. She was asked if she would like to move her appointment to over the phone and she said, “No, I think I’d rather wait until I can get an in person with you”.
According to an article by Pew Research Center, “25% of Hispanics and 23% of blacks are “smart phone” only internet users — meaning they lack a home broadband service but do own a smart phone. By comparison, 12% of whites fall into this category.” Latinos rely only on their smart phones to get access to the EDD to apply to unemployment or other health and government facilities. Even those with a desktop or laptop are not tech savvy and need assistance to browse the internet. On another study, a public library ran a survey to latinos and blacks and asked if they would be interested in a free class that would teach them how to become more tech savvy and know basic digital skills. 48% of latinos were interested, 46% of blacks, and only 20% of whites said the course would be beneficial.
Parts of the Latinx community are missing out on opportunities that technology can facilitate. Affording access to broadband or use of apps on the smartphone can help with submitting missing tax information such as a 1095A, the health insurance form that you need to file a tax return. Given the current Safer-at-Home instructions, the community struggles to send the information. Without access to the internet other use of certain apps, the yearly tax ritual under COVID-19 is increasingly difficult. Having the tax day pushed to July 15, eases the burdens.