At the North Georgia Low Income Tax Clinic, we have made it our mission to help families and individuals overcome financial hardship and achieve independence. Since 2019 we have assisted more than 130 people from across the state of Georgia in their journeys to make this mission a reality. Some of these amazing people have given us permission to share their stories. Our clients’ names have been omitted to preserve their privacy.

Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were a typical Georgian couple working 9-5 jobs, saving for retirement, and building their American dream. In 2005, a spiral of unexpected and unfortunate events threw their lives into chaos. Within the same year, two of their parents were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Both Mr. and Mrs. Wilson left their jobs to create more flexibility to support and care for their parents. In an effort to turn this hardship into an opportunity, they decided to invest in turning a former side project, a residential real estate business, into a full-time career. They knew that it was a risk, but they’d also made some good deals in the past, and if they were able to succeed, the new venture would give them the resources, time, and flexibility they needed to support their parents.

Unfortunately, life had other plans. Almost immediately, the Wilsons encountered a series of unexpected and debilitating obstacles. Their parents’ conditions continued to deteriorate and they experienced their own severe, personal health problems. Then, in 2007, less than a year after striking out on their own, the real estate market across the United States collapsed. The Wilsons’ fledgling business prospects dried up and they were forced to declare bankruptcy. They began to think they had run out of options. 

As the Wilsons’ financial difficulties mounted, they drew on every resource they had to keep themselves afloat. They withdrew from the retirement accounts that they had carefully built up over years of work but, like many people in similarly trying situations, did not properly account for the tax consequences of these withdrawals. This left them in debt to the IRS and the Georgia Department of Revenue just as their final financial resources were running dry. They felt stressed and hopeless. After exploring every option they could find to help repair their finances and regain some of the stability they’d lost, the Wilsons found their way to the North Georgia Low Income Tax Clinic.

By the time the Wilsons arrived at our offices, they felt that they had lost everything. They were struggling to restart their careers in middle age and had become dependent on their surviving parents for financial support. They felt that their situation was impossible, that their debts would simply follow them for the rest of their lives. 

With the assistance of our founder, Eric Santos, they were finally able to obtain some of the assistance they required. He helped them navigate the complexity of the federal and state tax systems and create a plan to resolve their issues and move forward. Mr. Santos helped the Wilsons apply to settle their existing tax debts.  Ultimately, they were able to reduce their outstanding liability to the IRS and the Georgia Department of Revenue by over $17,000. 

Through this forgiveness, the Wilsons have been able to escape the perpetual cycle of repayment and have gained the opportunity to restart. Through time and hard work, they have been able to rebuild not just financial stability, but their independence. After a decade of pain and stress, being debt-free has helped both Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have the time and energy to work, rebuild their savings, and regain some of their American dreams.