Teen helps taxpayers file returns by extended deadline this year

Apr 15, 2011

Tax day is later than usual this year. The deadline to file federal returns is Monday, April 18th.

The IRS didn't extend the cutoff just to give procrastinators more time. It did so to allow its employees to observe Emancipation Day, a holiday in Washington, D.C. to honor when Abraham Lincoln signed a law that ended slavery in the District.

A lot of taxpayer still dread filing their returns, even with a few extra days. That’s not the case for one local teenager. She’s the youngest person out of 650 people to volunteer with United Way of King County to help people prepare their taxes. 

Sanigiah Ysa has actually never filed her own taxes. Not because she’s a slacker, but because she’s only 14 years old. That didn’t stop her from wanting to help other people with their returns. 

“I was a good math student and I thought it was interesting because I wanted to go into business, kind of finance and accounting. So, I thought, ‘ooh, let’s start with taxes and see how tax returns are done.”

Since January, she’s walked dozens of people through filing their returns at the Rainier Community Center in Columbia City. To become a volunteer, she had to be at least in high school, understand the computer system, and pass an IRS certification test. She says it wasn’t easy:

“There were a whole bunch of terms I didn’t understand. I was like, ‘what’s an itemized deduction and a standardized deduction?’ I kind of understand them now. Standard is just kind of like, bleh.  Then if you have charity, or home mortgage, real estate and that sort of thing, then you would do an itemized one. I’m learning.”

Ysa says deciphering the complicated codes was worth it to see people’s faces light up when they find out they’re getting refunds. She says she’s enjoyed it so much that she not only wants to do it again next year but might want to work for the IRS some day.

Volunteers with organizations such as the United Way of King County will be available until Monday night to help low- and middle-income taxpayers file their returns. Here are a few examples throughout the region. Click the highlighted names to find specific locations: 

Individuals filing their own returns can get them postmarked Monday until midnight at some post office locations in Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Wenatchee.  IRS officials say a much faster option is to use its “E-file” service. They say paper returns take at least twice as long to process as those filed online.