Senior citizenship has oodles of privileges. I began to look into all these privileges when I turned 49 many moons ago, long before I became an official senior citizen. Yes, I admit. I have a proclivity to plan way ahead especially when it comes to reaping benefits. Even these days I read about the senior citizen programs in other countries just in case a new and improved lifestyle outside the US might enhance my existence in the twilight years. I love the free first-run movies in air-conditioned theaters for seniors in the Philippines and the free bus rides for seniors in Costa Rica where I’d be bestowed the title “aciudadano de oro.” It sure sounds important. In the US each state has interesting generous programs for senior citizens. I’m still hoping to find a state that distributes free string bikinis to qualified senior babes.
One great benefit of the USA senior citizen is the free income tax preparation offered ,by the AARP, a US-based group that focuses on the elderly and how they can continue to live well after retirement. In the retirement resort where I live, AARP tax preparation volunteers open shop in time to help seniors file their income tax returns no later than April 15th.
Last year, 2017, on the sixth month of my residency in the community, I availed myself of the AARP services. I went through the motions of setting up an appointment date, gathering the previous year’s income tax return, all the latest income statements from banks, pension funds, and Social Security Administration (SSA), and when it was all said and done, I finally made it front and center of a volunteer. A senior herself, the volunteer, a Chinese lady whose serious, non-cosmetically-enhanced face screamed “retired bean counter,” studied my personal information as if she was seeing something that required in-depth scrutiny. You filed a joint return last year? she asked. I answered, Yes I did. She contnued, You are filing a separate return this year? No, I replied. My husband died last year so I am a widow this year. Her Chinese eyes opened wide, my Filipino eyes opened even wider. She said, You might not need to file this year because you are a new widow, but I’m not so sure. I’ll call my supervisor. The volunteer sounded excited. She had no idea how much more excited she got me. When the supervisor arrived, she looked at a chart of allowable and exempt conditions for new widows then confirmed what I wanted to hear: You don’t have to file this year, but check again next year.
How about that! New widowhood has its own privilege. This year 2018, last year’s next year, I tried to invoke my new-widow income tax non-filer privilege. I toyed with the notion there might be a chance I could use it every year until I become an old widow. Wishful thinking warms the aging heart.
No, no, no, you have to file this year, declared this year’s volunteer, a senior citizen male whose silver mustache covering his upper lip matched the silver hair on his head. And you also should have filed last year.
Oh dear, I gasped. Now I am a tax evader. I did my disarming best to get the volunteer to get off the kick of correcting my last year’s non filing and just proceed to this year’s filing. I succeeded.
But I don’t see your 2017 SSA Statement of Benefits, he declared. It dawned on me that I had not received my SSA statements in two years. It’s a good thing I’m retired and a new widow. I have an excuse for being clueless. He instructed me: Go to the SSA office now and you’ll be back here in a couple of hours. I protested: I can’t. I save the environment from pollution. I take the bus. He warned: Today is AARP’s last day here.
The disarming senior babe went to work. Then please get me an extension from the IRS, I implored, my rapidly blinking brown eyes drilled on his hazel eyes. That will give me time to update my personal information on file with the IRS and get replacements for SSA 1099 statements. He caved in. He filed electronically for an extension and gave me his card. See you at the end of summer, he said.
Two days later I was so relieved to get all the SSA requirements done without leaving my minimalist manor: my personal information updated by phone and my 2017 Statement of Benefits to be replaced through snail mail. It took 45 minutes, but I had dedicated a whole day for that. Hey, I’m retired.
Now I can focus on assembling my pool wardrobe for summer and hope this year’s AARP tax volunteer would still be up to the task of helping this poor helpless senior with her income tax filing in August.