The Staples High School 1961 yearbook listed 2 goals for senior Joe Valiante. He wanted to be an accountant. And he wanted a hole-in-one.
He got the ace.
He also took accounting courses at the University of Miami. But he left before earning his degree.
So the native Westporter spent 5 years working for Connecticut National Bank.
In 1968 he joined the Westport Fire Department. For 35 years he worked his way up, from firefighter to lieutenant, then captain and assistant chief. He also earned an associate’s degree in fire science from Norwalk State Technical College.
Valiante fought some of Westport’s biggest fires: Klaff’s. Westport Hardware. Sherwood Square (twice). The bowling alley.
Before retiring, he saw an ad for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Serving low- and middle-income people, it seemed like the perfect way to use his accounting talents.
Valiante underwent rigorous training. (He re-trains every year.) He signed a waiver, saying he would accept nothing for his work — no money, no gifts.
Then he went to work.
Each year — 6 days a week, from February 1 through April 15 — Valiante prepares returns. On Wednesdays he’s at the Senior Center. He splits the other days between the Fairfield and Norwalk libraries, and Norwalk Senior Center.
This year, he did 728 returns. That’s the most of any volunteer, for the past 10 years.
Some of his clients are elderly. Some are low-income. At the libraries, he sees anyone.
He also does pro bono work for the staff at Commuter Coffee. He did the wait staff at Mario’s too, until it closed.
Many of the men and women at the senior centers and libraries are repeat clients. Each year, they request Valiante by name.
It’s an enormous amount of work — with absolutely no pay. “Thank you is enough,” he says.
So why does he do it?
“I want to give something back,” Valiante says. “I enjoy it. I’ll go anywhere to help.”
“Besides, the people are so appreciative. And these are people who really need help. An accounting firm would charge them at least $300.”
So why is “06880” profiling a tax specialist in July?
Because Valiante is still doing returns. “There are a lot of extensions,” he explains.
Does he get an extension? You know — the cobbler’s children, and all.
“My taxes are done by the end of February,” Valiante says proudly.