Pauline Sharp: Tax Guru

by Colonel Richard Munn

It is a national season and task many people dread, with a renowned deadline—personal tax preparation and filing, by April 15, every year. The sheer volume of technical language, codes, and forms can be overwhelming, and it seems to evolve and become more complex each time it rolls around.

Remarkably, some people relish the challenge. They can be gifts in our midst. Meet Pauline Sharp, a retired Salvation Army employee who not only takes on the IRS challenge and complexities for others but, in so doing, also raises extraordinary funds for the annual Salvation Army World Services campaign.

This is a quite beautiful and unique combination, serving others at a genuine point of bewilderment and need, and simultaneously raising funds for untold good around the world.

The SAconnects team had a chance to catch up with Pauline recently, at the height of tax season no less, to give you, our readers, the story behind the story.

You are a retired Salvation Army employee; can you describe your overall scope of service and the types of roles you experienced?

My parents were Salvation Army officers commissioned right after World War II. They were corps officers, and later served in finance in a few divisions and THQ. After my father passed away at a relatively young age, my mother went to serve at the Booth Memorial Hospital in Queens, N.Y. She met and interacted with so many interesting people there and really fulfilled her calling.

Your personal support and tax preparation for many people is legendary. When and how did it all begin?

While working my way through college, I was employed by both New Jersey and NEOSA [Northeast Ohio] divisions. For several years after I worked in Greater New York, Syracuse Area Services, and finished up in Southern New England as an employee divisional finance secretary. In retirement I commenced doing taxes for both the Eastern and Central Territories. I was fortunate to be able to do the Pre-Retirement Seminar in the East for nine years relative to taxes. They were all great experiences!

How did the unique link between your tax work and Salvation Army World Services come about?

It seems like I have done taxes forever, having taken my first course in college. I just occasionally did it for others. But in 2008, a senior retired officer asked if I could do his taxes, and thus it began. Over the next several years officers, particularly retired officers, came along who needed assistance. I was kindly given mementos and gifts but felt there had to be a better way. It was then that the idea of giving money to World Services was born. Starting in 2016 it generated $3,000, and my hope was that it would eventually be $5,000, but it has far exceeded my expectations. The last three years have exceeded $9,000. Thus far, over $60,000 has been given to the Old Orchard Beach Corps toward their World Services goal over these years.

How much time do you spend between January and April 15 every year on this venture? And how enjoyable is it for you?

It is really a year-round effort. Trying to keep up with IRS changes can be overwhelming. There are always questions and concerns to be addressed throughout the year. But it really begins in December with getting the office supplies so that everything is in place. January is slow as individuals receive the necessary tax documents, but late January through April can be all consuming. I’ve started as early as 4:30 a.m. and made it a point to stop at four o’clock in the afternoon—whatever I am working on will be there the next morning.

It can be enjoyable. The best part is getting to know people I would never have known. We can become quite close. Also, I am grateful to all the corps officers at OOB who have maintained that same confidence over these years.

Do you have any concluding words of insight or encouragement for our readers?

I believe that there might be other people throughout the territory who have skills that they can share and assist a corps with its World Services goal. What can that be? I look forward to hearing some of their stories.

Thank you, Pauline. We salute your service and creativity on behalf of others, and the global mission of the Army.