Every year Foundation Communities helps more than 20,000 Central Texans prepare and file their taxes and maximize their refund. This year we had to close in-person tax preparation due to COVID-19, but in early April we launched 100% online tax preparation through July 15. Instead of meeting with clients in person, our tax preparers are using a fully online system and meeting with clients by phone to review the tax information they submit online at Foundation Communities’ tax filing portal.
Like many, our IRS-certified tax preparers have transitioned to working from home from their usual workplace at one of the Prosper Center locations or another tax site in Austin. We chatted with Johnny LeBlanc, one of our IRS-certified tax preparers, to hear what motivates him to help Central Texans prepare and file their taxes, and how the shift from in-person to online tax prep is going.
If you still need to file your taxes and/or claim your stimulus payment, our IRS-certified team can help. Are you expecting a refund? Don’t wait! Visit Foundation Communities’ tax filing portal, or call 512-610-7374 for assistance.
How long have you been volunteering with Foundation Communities as an IRS-certified Tax Help volunteer and how did you get involved?
I started volunteering in 2008. I don’t remember how I first heard about the Foundation Communities tax program (probably a PSA on KUT), but I attended a training session and decided to give it a try.
How did your experience volunteering build upon your previous expertise? What have you learned along the way?
I’m a retired electrical engineer. Numbers and complexity are not intimidating to me, and I have been doing my own federal taxes for many years, so doing tax returns has been easy. Interacting with so many different people while helping them with their taxes has definitely been a different experience than that of an engineer working for a large company.
The Tax Help program typically is an in-person service, but due to COVID-19 precautions needed to switch to virtual service. What’s it like volunteering virtually?
It’s very positive that we are still able to help folks with their taxes. Using the tax software is exactly the same as it was at the tax sites and the online platform makes it super easy to communicate with the Foundation Communities staff. The only downside is not being able to interact directly with our clients. I miss that.
What does your virtual volunteer work-from-home space set-up look like?
I’m an old nerd so I have a powerful desktop computer and a very large monitor in my home office, which makes doing virtual tax returns super easy. I have a bird feeder right outside my window so I can see the parent birds frantically trying to keep their fledglings fed and my desk is usually covered with 2 or 3 sleeping cats (often snoring) while I’m doing taxes.
What do you miss most about volunteering in-person at the tax sites?
Interacting with the Foundation Communities staff and getting to meet our tax clients in person.
When you’re not volunteering, what do you enjoy doing?
My main hobby is photography, I dabble at digital painting, and I also love visiting and hiking in our national parks (local parks too). I also volunteer at the Austin Animal Center where I try to help get cats adopted.
What’s the last book, movie, or TV show that made you laugh out loud?
Big Bang Theory
For anyone considering getting their taxes prepared virtually, but have never used a virtual service before, what would you want them to know to help them feel comfortable?
If you are uncomfortable with using our virtual tax service, just think of it as using TurboTax but with real people to do the actual return for you and who will review and explain the return with you before it will be submitted.