A Volunteer’s Commitment to Service
Natasha (name changed) and her husband had built and were living a good and comfortable life when they got the news that he had a serious illness. As the illness progressed, Natasha’s husband was in and out of care. This made it difficult for her to hold steady employment and so the couple ended up spending down their savings and selling almost all of their assets.
After three years of illness, her husband passed away. Natasha was left alone, living in her car and carrying the burden of a significant amount of debt to the IRS. Though her husband was a U.S. citizen, Natasha was a legal permanent resident green card holder. However, because she did not understand the legality of her immigration status, she was under the mistaken assumption that she would have to return to her birth country after her husband died.
Confused about how to address her situation, Natasha made her way to our office and volunteer attorney Robert Unetic. After 32 years of experience working as an attorney for the IRS, Robert knew exactly how we could assist her to resolve the debt she owed to the agency and moved to do so.
Robert helped her file missing returns. This allowed her to get caught up and apply for an Offer in Compromise, a method by which a taxpayer could settle tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. He then helped her write her “prayer” to the tax agencies to ask that the tax debt be forgiven due to the circumstances of her husband’s fatal condition. The request was successful, and the debt was forgiven by the tax agencies. With her tax debt settled thanks to Robert’s help, Natasha was in position to apply for citizenship and stabilize her life again.
Natasha is one of the many clients Robert has been able to assist as a core volunteer for CLA SoCal. A native of Orange County and graduate of Cal State Fullerton (Political Science) and Western State Law School, he was interested in volunteering in his community during retirement. Upon a recommendation from a contact who was volunteering with us at the time, he decided to join us.
With a background in audits, income and estate and gift tax and initially “siloed” in his work at the IRS, Robert spent his last 8 years of employment before retirement working for the IRS Union, which allowed him to expand his knowledge about the other specialized areas within the agency. Additionally, while at the IRS, he was allowed to maintain a part-time family law practice, which has been helpful to him in his volunteer work.
Since signing on, Robert’s commitment has been exemplary. His insights about how to best help our clients based on his experience at the IRS have been beneficial to both our clients and staff. As Santa Ana office directing attorney Renato Izquieta states, “As a former IRS agent, Robert has provided great insight on the inner workings of the IRS. He helps me to understand how the IRS, from their perspective, will analyze a case.”
In one particular case Renato’s client lacked a receipt to substantiate their deductions. It was certain the client had the expenses the IRS was disallowing. Renato consulted with Robert who advised him to request that the IRS “reconstruct” the client’s expenses. This meant the IRS went through a process to estimate the expenses using the average costs of other businesses similar to our client’s. This is a tedious process for the IRS, but the request was a useful and effective method to have them accept the expenses stated in the return. As a result, the client’s tax issue was resolved.
For over three years now Robert has been offering his time and sharing his knowledge with us. Besides taking breaks to travel, he has been a consistent and reliable presence in our Santa Ana office, volunteering three days a week. His work has brought positive outcomes for our clients and the expertise he shares with our staff has been invaluable.