kindness activist

kindness activist

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tax Time Kindness

You know how when you know someone from a certain setting, you sometimes don’t recognize them if you see them in a different place?  Like, maybe you see your hairdresser at the grocery store, and you know you know her, but she isn’t in the “right” place so you aren’t sure who she is…  Well, that is how I imagine it would feel if I saw Kurt Fitzpatrick sitting behind a desk asking me to hand over my receipts for the year so he could do my taxes. 

THIS is how I think of Kurfitz, on STAGE performing...
You see, Kurt is a performer.  I know him from “the Fringe circuit” – he is an artist who travels around doing his shows at Fringe Festivals around North America.  I first met him at a welcome party for out of town artists at the Orlando Fringe.  I remember that he and I were both hovering around the hors d’oeuvre table, a bit uncomfortable in the setting and quietly chowing down on veggies and dip.  He introduced himself and (I am not sure if I ever told him this…) I THOUGHT he said his name was Kurfitz Patrick.  Now that I write it out, I know that makes no sense.  Now I know, now I know…  But at the time, I thought I had just met a guy named Kurfitz, which was pretty cool!  So my partner David and I still privately refer to him as Kurfitz Patrick anytime we mention him.  (Now you know Kurfitz!!)

I also think of Kurfitz like THIS - riding on a blue jackalope.
Cuz that is the sort of thing I think of him doing.
I have seen Kurt do 5 of his original shows (“Hooray for Speech Therapy”, “Best Picture”, “The Last Straight Man in Theatre), “Bromance” (where David and I got to do a walk-on), and “Dancing in the Mist”.  I have hung out with him in beer tents and theatres.  And I know that he also does work on TV shows and movies.  So when I saw him post on Facebook that he was volunteering to do TAXES for low income people, I had to read the post again.  KURFITZ DOING TAXES FOR PEOPLE??  FOR FREE?? Huh???  That bit of news necessitated some question asking.  And what I learned is, Kurfitz is a kind guy.  Well, I already knew THAT.  What I learned was, he deserves to be named a Kindness Activist.  Here’s the scoop:

Kurt usually lives in New York/New Jersey, but he fell in looooove (something I was really happy about) and moved to Seattle to be with his sweetheart.  They lived there a while, then decided to come back to NJ.  But it was the off-season for touring performers so he needed a way to make money.  The background acting gigs and stand-in jobs weren’t cutting it.  He told me: 

    “I realized how much I enjoy doing my own personal         
    finances.  It’s weird, but I get an odd thrill out of budgeting 
    and organizing receipts, etc., but I have never used that 
    skill outside of producing my own work. I thought, “Hey, I 
    can do taxes!  But do I have to be an accountant?”  An 
    accountant friend of mine said, “No!” and I said, “Good! 
    Because I’m not!”.  He recommended that I walk into an 
    H&R Block and say, “I want to become a tax preparer. Will 
    you hire me and train me?”.  So I put together a nifty 
    resume and walked into my local H&R Block and said just 
    that. They said, “No. You have to take our class in 
    September to work here.” Well, it was January…

Kurt looking all actor-y.  Who knew he can also look TAX-Y?
    In years past (Kurt continued) I have volunteered through 
    New York Cares. I would tutor kids in the early mornings
    to help them with their reading, deliver food to the elderly, 
    and teach kids how to swim on the weekends. But I had 
    been out of New York quite a bit the last two years, so I 
    hadn’t done much with New York Cares. A friend of mine 
    told me about the IRS’s VITA program, which is free tax 
    preparation for lower income people. New York Cares 
    partners with that program. To do taxes for this program, 
    you have to study up on information on the IRS site, take 
    an exam, and get at least 80% on it. The exam is “open 
    book,” and you can take as long as you want, but that 
    doesn’t make it easier considering all the data and 
    information you have to wade through and process. I got 
    cocky and figured I would take the advanced exam, but I 
    failed it, and you only get two tries. I passed the basic 
    exam and that was enough to be qualified to volunteer. 
    When I was halfway through tax season, I retook the 
    advanced and passed.”
Isn't that cool? I mean, I also like doing budgeting and paying bills, but you don't see ME studying the IRS website and helping other people complete tax forms... I asked Kurfitz about getting into tax preparation and the time required to do it and he said, “It was a huge commitment to learn how to do to it. The other volunteers had some kind of background in finance, but I'm an actor for crying out loud. That doesn't scream "qualified" in the financial world. But this is how I've always been in my life - I throw myself into things, no matter how odd it seems, and sometimes I predictably fail and other times I surprisingly flourish. The volunteer sessions themselves have been every other Saturday during tax season. For a full Saturday, I'd be in Brooklyn preparing returns."

No, this is not Kurt in Brooklyn on his way to do taxes...  It is him in his "Best Picture" costume.  Lookin' good!
Seriously KIND.  Giving up an entire Saturday to help people do their taxes!  I mean, not a lot of people would be willing to do that.  And Kurfitz wants to do it again next year.  He wisely says, “I could have taken a class or learned from a book. I like that I learned more and more by helping people.”  And how do the people who come to the program to get their taxes done feel?  “I think they are pleased that such a service is offered, but I don’t take credit for it. If they are getting a refund, I’m not giving them the money and if they owe money, I’m not the one getting it. It’s a complex system and I’m just there doing my thing the best I can.”
Then, in true Kurfitz Patrick style, he proceeded to tell me a story about doing taxes that made me laugh out loud.  “The people I meet can be interesting. I have had several people who don’t speak English and a translator is provided. They bring their kids as well, and the kids and the translator will get bored and get up and do things and you have to at least wrangle the translator back. I had a woman who grossed $200 last year who didn’t speak English and spent the entire time smiling at me as if she wanted to eat me. I was flattered yet terrified. One woman came here from Canada to take care of her aunt, and her aunt would not allow herself to be claimed as a dependent. Bitch!”
Oh Kurfitz, only you would be flattered that a woman smiled at you like she wanted to eat you…

Kurt adding his head to Mt. Rushmore.
So now that I have written this story up and dubbed Kurfitz a Kindness Activist, I realize:  I don’t think he ever really solved the issue of needing a bit more income to make it through the off-season of performing!!  I mean, volunteering is super kind and all, but it doesn’t help pay the mortgage.  Oh well, I guess next year when tax season rolls around again Kurfitz will be super good at filling out his own taxes, plus the forms for low income people he assists.  J  Way to be kind, dude. 
Kurt is about ready to start his 2016 tour of “Best Picture”.  If you are in London (Ontario), Ottawa, Victoria BC, Vancouver, or Toronto make sure you check the show out!  You can learn more about his work at: .  And hey, follow him on Twitter: @kurt_fitz because he is a funny guy! 

If you know of a Kindness Activist, please, please, please tell me about them!  Email me at: 

Bonus photo!  Kurt and Xan in their touching production of "Dancing in the Mist"

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