From the Blog

Welcome to Brooklyn Cooperative’s blog!  We decided to start a blog as a way to introduce ourselves. Credit unions aren’t as familiar to most people as banks, though our services are likely better suited to their needs. Hopefully, through this blog, we will show that.

A Day in the Life of a Tax Counselor

Posted by Samira Rajan @Sep 21 2019

Today we have a guest blogger!  Laurel Leckert has been a Small Business Tax Counselor at Brooklyn Coop for a few years.  She had a great day yesterday and wanted to share these wonderful stories.

“My first appointment today was with a very nice man who had received a bill from the IRS for over $5000 and he didn’t understand why. It seems the IRS had disallowed the Child Tax Credits he’d claimed relating to his three children. The tax return had been correctly filled out by the preparer as far as I could see. Perhaps he was not eligible because he and his wife have ITINs, not SSNs?  (An ITIN is a tax ID for undocumented individuals that allows them to file their taxes irrespective of their immigration status.) I did some research and it turns out ITIN holders do qualify for the Child Tax Credits.

It’s funny that, after a lifetime of community organizing and attending protests, I’ve never felt so effective as an activist as I do filing taxes!

All of us (except Cathie)!

Laurel conducts a seminar on Tax Filing at BCoop.

“We called the IRS. The representative suggested the taxpayer’s ITIN had expired. But no, he had renewed his ITIN here at Brooklyn Coop before filing his taxes. What about the spouse’s ITIN?  We confirmed that it was not expired either. We were put on hold. Finally the rep came back to say that it was their mistake and that they would reverse the penalties!  We hung up joyfully and I helped him pay the remainder of his tax balance online. After months of stressing out about his tax bill, he was done!

“My second appointment was a phone call with a lawyer at Brooklyn Defender Services. One of the reasons that the US government gives for wanting to deport people is because they’ve been living in the country without paying taxes. Very often, then, we help BDS clients file up to 10 years of back years’ tax returns.

“I love working on these cases. When BDS can say court that their client is fully compliant with their US tax obligation, they usually win and the client is legally permitted to stay in the country where they’ve been working and raising a family for years.

“My third appointment was helping a sweet couple and their adorable newborn to apply for an ITIN for the husband, who had arrived in the country less than a year ago. They had just opened a savings account at BCoop.

“My fourth appointment was with another very friendly man with another huge bill from the IRS. His ITIN truly had expired which is why his claim for tax credits was disallowed. I got him through the renewal process and he sighed a great sigh of relief.

“My last appointment was a local entrepreneur who is also starting a consulting business for local social justice organizations. I gave her a ton of information about the pros and cons of the different business types so she could make the right decision in starting her business. She expressed heartfelt gratitude for the time I took and told me she felt greatly empowered to move toward her goals.

“I feel incredibly lucky to work at Brooklyn Coop where I can combine my activism with my nerdiness. Don’t let bureaucracy break your dreams!”

Samira Rajan is the longest-serving employee of Brooklyn Coop and currently the Director of both the credit union and Grow Brooklyn. She started here as an Americorp*VISTA for a single year of service back when we were Bushwick Coop in 2001, got hooked by the challenge of building a community financial institution, and hasn’t left.