NYSSCPA Extends Helping Hand to Public With Annual Tax Panels

By:
ROBERT BUSWEILER
Published Date:
Apr 11, 2014

Even in the midst of a grueling busy season, NYSSCPA members once again carved out time from their professional schedules to give back to their communities, dispensing free tax advice as part of the Society’s annual volunteer tax panels in February and March.

The panels, which are cosponsored by local media outlets and held across the state, are a long-standing tradition that the Society established in order to connect members with residents and business owners who need assistance filing income taxes.

Since its early days more than 30 years ago, when the NYSSCPA partnered with a single New York City radio station to answer listeners’ questions, the program has bloomed: This year, some 75 member volunteers from Buffalo to Long Island answered more than 1,000 questions from the public. Participating chapters included Buffalo, Mid Hudson, Nassau, Northeast, Suffolk and Westchester, as well as members of the Manhattan/Bronx, Queens/Brooklyn and Rockland chapters.

Participating media outlets hosted the panels at their offices, covering the events in their broadcasts and online and print publications. The panels provide a tremendous amount of exposure for the profession, said NYSSCPA President J. Michael Kirkland, and allows CPAs to develop a stronger connection to the public.

“By volunteering, not only do Society members provide a service to the community, but they help to enhance the ‘CPA’ brand,” he said..

Newsday: Suffolk and Nassau Chapters
For the third year in a row, Long Island’s daily newspaper, Newsday, partnered with the Society and, thanks to its steady promotion of the event, the panel drew a big response from the community. Nassau and Suffolk Chapter members spent six hours over the course of two days fielding more than 140 questions from residents and small business owners in a live Web chat.

A number of questions focused on marital situations, including one from a man who had separated from his wife years ago but, until recently, still shared a home with her. Now that they live apart, could they finally file their taxes as single individuals? According to member volunteer Elliott Lavietes, it was not so much the living situation but the legal situation of the marriage that was key. His answer: “Only if you have a divorce decree or a formal decree of legal separation.”

A recap of both chats was posted online by Newsday. Following the tax panel, Newsday also ran a two-page spread in its business section that featured more detailed responses from the CPA volunteers.

Volunteers:
Alex Resnick
Jill S. Scher
Jeffrey J. Kravitz
Dov Zaidman
John P. Spinelli
Cari Manteiga
Donald R. Crotty
Jack Angel
Pamela A. Diamond
Gary M. Goldberg
Ruth Betz
Phyllis S. Dent
Christopher G. Farrell
Scott Sanders
Elliott Lavietes
Jacquelyn Paccione
Robert J. Schaffer

New York Daily News: Multiple chapters
NYSSCPA members from around the metropolitan area fielded questions for three days from Daily News readers, as part of the Society’s largest tax panel in the state.

Twenty-five CPA volunteers faced the typically wide-ranging gamut of queries that the Daily News tax hotline serves up, from issues surrounding inheritance to investor adviser fees.

One of the largest newspapers in the nation, the New York Daily News provided a tremendous amount of publicity for the tax panel, which ran from March 18–20. Its coverage included both print stories in its paper and coverage on its website.

Although the bulk of the questions came via the phone hotline, which was staffed by more than four volunteers during peak times, the Daily News continued to utilize a live Web chat as well. This combination of communication allowed the volunteers to answer several hundred questions each day during the panel.

Volunteers:
Joseph Nacmias
Arthur Bloom
Marc Albaum
John R. Lieberman
Jonathan M. Horn
Vincent Cervone
John A. Lombardo
Laurence I. Foster
Generoso J. Romano
Peg Horan
Ronald B. Hegt
Anil R. Melwani
Vincent J. Cosenza
Avery E. Neumark
Herbert Wolff
Adam Baruch
Steven Shinder
Mark H. Levin
Scott M. Cheslowitz
Abraham Y. Cohan
Pablo F. Sanchez
Samuel M. Kearton
Patrick R. Colabella
Elliot Schwartz
Joseph B. Sesay

WRGB-CBS 6: Northeast Chapter
In an effort to expand the reach of its tax panels, the Society partnered with a television station for the first time this year, the Albany-area CBS affiliate WRGB-CBS 6. The station featured the NYSSCPA’s six member volunteers in its Answers Team segment. Members spent two hours answering calls in the newsroom, and WRGB reporter Jennifer Lewke conducted a live check-in with them every 15 minutes.
“We had over 200 calls in just two hours,” Lewke said. “You provided great and useful information to our viewers and the calls just kept on coming!”

Volunteers:
Mark Witte
Shawn P. Mauche
Wesley J. Sweeney
Steven Shinder
Kelly A. Saposnick
Bernadette H. Schopfer

The Buffalo News: Buffalo Chapter
On March 18, 11 volunteers from the Buffalo Chapter staffed the Buffalo News tax panel during a four-hour session.

Via phone and live Web chat, the volunteers answered a variety of questions, which included queries on student loans, handling cancelation of debt, dependents and income tax rates.

“Most people are happy just to have somebody to call, which makes us feel good,” said Timothy J. Hoelscher, a past Buffalo Chapter executive board member.

The Buffalo News published the names of the volunteers and a summary of some of the more popular questions several times before and after the event. A recap of the event was also posted in the newspaper and online.

Volunteers:
Peter X. Bellanti
Timothy J. Hoelscher
Joseph T. Kabacinski
Rosemarie C. Steeb
Mark G. Janulewicz
David J. Lever
Bruce M. Zgoda
Dennis W. Jewell
Jane E. Jewell
Todd M. Zgoda
Christine A. Learman

The Journal News: Westchester Chapter
For the second year in a row, Westchester’s Journal News tax panel saw an increase in participation from the public, with volunteers from the Society’s Westchester Chapter fielding more than 80 questions on March 1.

Nine volunteers worked the phone lines and participated in a live Web chat moderated by Journal News Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson. Areas that callers focused on this year included deductibility of medical expenses and tax issues regarding self-employment. The volunteers also responded to several questions concerning capital gains taxes, which rose from 15 percent to 20 percent for couples earning more than $450,000. 

The Journal News tax panel was held on a Saturday this year—a move that helped drum up interest in the program. Member volunteers answered questions from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The Journal News’s coverage of the event included a wrap-up of common questions and a photo gallery of the volunteers.

Volunteers:
Robert M. Winton
Peter D. Brown
John O'Keefe
Jason I. Roif
Katherine Santaniello
Bharti Gupta
Kristin Krauskopf
William Minoff
Steven Shinder


The Poughkeepsie Journal: Mid Hudson Chapter
More than 35 people were able to get their pressing tax questions answered, thanks to a team of volunteers from the Mid Hudson Chapter who participated in The Poughkeepsie Journal’s annual Dial-a-CPA night on March 26.

During the event, member volunteers answered queries via phone, live chat and email, with questions focused mainly on personal income taxes and business issues.

The Poughkeepsie Journal promoted the event before and after the panel was held with several stories.

Volunteers:
Tracey J. Niemotko
Tracy Badgley
Beth Vought
Brian DiFillipio
Glenn A. Noakes     

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