I love doing taxes. This season, I will have spent every Thursday evening (when I am not travelling for IPA workshops and meetings) volunteering as a preparer at a tax assistance site in Washington DC. What does this have to do with IPA? Well, as I was taking the certification course it struck me how similar it was to surveyor training. We sit down with respondents and conduct interviews. Based on their answers, we can skip some sections of a two page survey and fill out additional forms in other sections. A reviewer comes by at the end, scrutinizes my work, and makes sure I did not skip any zeros when copying down DC's incredibly long Employer Identification Numbers from W2 forms. We have auditors re-survey respondents to make sure that the surveyors did not make mistakes or make up responses. Aside from simply copying a number from a W2 into the "income" section, we make the same judgement calls that we ask of surveyors:
What exactly constitutes a member of a household? What if they live in college dorm rooms 9 months of the year? What if they moved out in August 2010? What if they are foster children? If your spouse left six months ago, but you aren't officially divorced, do you still have to file as married?