Military families have a lot of responsibility to juggle, especially when a family member is deployed. To help lessen the burden on the soldiers and their families, The Ohio Society of CPAs partnered with the Ohio National Guard to create Operation CPA, a program that matches Ohio military families with local CPAs to provide free tax preparation services each tax season.
Now in its seventh year, Operation CPA has helped over 400 military families that are permanent residents of Ohio and currently deployed outside of the state.
This program is made possible thanks to the generous time donated by OSCPA member volunteers. One such volunteer, Elizabeth Kroll, CPA of Pease & Associates, Inc. in the Cleveland area saw an ad in CPA Voice seeking volunteers.
“I thought that these families, not just the soldiers, give so much to protect me and my home. I don’t have much time or talents to offer so this is something I can do to repay their generosity,” she said of making the decision to help.
OSCPA matched Kroll with the Shugrue family. After a news story appeared on WKYC in Cleveland, Marisa Shugrue decided to take advantage of the free help.
“Earlier that day I had been thinking, ‘I need to figure out our tax situation soon,’ so it was perfect timing, Marisa said. “I sent an email to the Society right away. It’s great that it’s just one less thing for me to worry about.”
Marisa’s husband, Staff Sergeant Mike Shugrue is currently on his third deployment with a unit based out of Lima, Ohio. “The most difficult thing, of course, is the separation for me and my daughters from my husband. But it’s also difficult to do everything on my own or to have to rely on family and friends for so much. We’re lucky that as a National Guard family we’re close to our extended family, but the downside is we don’t necessarily have access to the traditional military services and support.”
So why is it helpful to have a CPA prepare military tax returns as opposed to using tax software or doing them on your own?
“There are many deductions that are offered to military personnel that they may not be aware of,” Kroll warns. “Also, portions of their pay may be non-taxable.”
After connecting with Kroll, Marisa describes her experience as very seamless.
“I received a response nearly immediately from the Society and heard from a CPA within a day or two,” Marisa remembers. “She and I set up a convenient time to meet, and everything has gone well from there. We are meeting one more time in a few days to go over the return, and I anticipate it will wrap-up smoothly.”
“I have both done the taxes myself and used a CPA in the past. Going through Operation CPA offers both peace of mind that our taxes were done properly and saves us a lot of money, which is obviously very helpful.”
The reasons that OSCPA volunteers feel it’s important to give back through Operation CPA vary, but for Kroll, it’s all about helping where her specialties lie. “If I can help them make one area of their life less stressful then I have done my job.”
The Shugrue family now has at least one weight lifted off their shoulders until they’re all united again. “With my husband gone I feel like I’m juggling so many things, and Operation CPA has taken one of those off my hands. I’m very grateful for that. I have already recommended Operation CPA to other military families.”
If you have had an experience with Operation CPA either as a volunteer or as a military family needing tax preparation assistance, please share your story below!