“I like doing math and I like doing taxes,” says David Silverman, a partner in the Intellectual Property practice group of Davis Wright Tremaine.
It’s perhaps an unusual passion, but one he’s put to good use: For the last three years he’s devoted numerous evenings and weekends—over 160 hours in this year’s tax season alone—to assisting low- and moderate-income tax filers in his home county of Fairfax, Virginia. “We did it Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and all day Saturday,” says Silverman. “Every time we opened, there’d be a line of people waiting.”
While the program in which Silverman participates is organized by the IRS, the primary objective, he notes, is to get money for the clients wherever possible. “People often aren’t aware of all the tax credits available to them,” he says. “There’s the Earned Income Credit, the Child Tax Credit, the Saver’s Credit and others.” These credits are over and above any taxes withheld from income.
“This is money these people may not know about, and that they really need,” says Silverman. “We had someone come in who had no income whatsoever, but had paid tuition. We were able to get her a $1,000 education credit.”
At the site, clients who wanted to do their own taxes were offered a carrel of four computers where they could use the IRS’s free e-file service. But most clients wanted someone else to prepare their return. “A lot of these people are not comfortable with computers, taxes, or both, and they were very grateful that someone was available to help,” says Silverman.
Silverman says his fellow volunteers included “college students who wanted to be CPAs, retired people who just feel this is a way to give back in their spare time, and everything in between.” Together they prepared 702 returns at the site.
Silverman’s other recent pro bono activities have included helping patients at an HIV clinic sign up for Medicare Part D coverage (which pays for drug treatment), and doing election protection work.