Local lawyer Michael A. Canet is being honored for his free service to the poor

Helping hand in tax jams

September 28, 2005|By ANDREA F. SIEGEL | ANDREA F. SIEGEL,SUN REPORTER

Since he became a lawyer in 1997, Michael A. Canet has regularly helped low-income people at no charge - doing their taxes, resolving their federal tax disputes and teaching other lawyers how to do tax returns for a clinic serving the poor.

"I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunities I did have, and I want to give back," said Canet, who said he grew up "dirt poor," was in foster care, and at age 15 was adopted by relatives.

Tonight, Canet, 43, is being honored as the Volunteer of the Year by the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. In eight years, he has taken on 54 of the nonprofit organization's clients for tax and guardianship matters.

The Ellicott City man is one of several attorneys being commended for longtime assistance to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

A lawyer specializing in tax matters and financial planning, he is the principle of the company he has worked at since 1997, the renamed Prostatis Financial Advisors Group. Offices are in Glen Burnie, Towson and Columbia.

Among the people he has helped through the volunteer lawyers group are a battered wife whose husband forged her signature on a tax return, a person whose mushrooming tax troubles stemmed from transposed figures on a return, and a laborer who was in hot water with the IRS after a tax preparer increased his return by fabricating children as deductions.

Winifred C. Borden, executive director of the volunteer group, said Canet has taken eight clients this year and often takes a few at once.

"Most people take one at a time," she said.

The Baltimore-based organization provides free and low-cost legal help to about 4,400 impoverished people a year throughout the state in civil matters, including landlord-tenant disputes, consumer issues and denial of public benefits.

"I love taxes," Canet said. "It's not hard to give that much because I enjoy it. It's a couple of hours of my time."

Many of the clients he has helped live paycheck to paycheck, he said.

After graduating from Howard County's Atholton High School, Canet managed restaurants. He worked his way through Howard Community College, then earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Baltimore, a law degree at Catholic University of America, and a Master of Laws degree in taxation at the University of Baltimore.

Eight lawyers also are to be recognized tonight for accepting an Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service case a year for 10 years, Borden said. They are Alan J. Bloom of Timonium; Edwin G. Fee Jr. and Frederick A. Raab of Towson; Thomas G. Slater of Frederick; and Marc R. Kivitz, William M. Rudow, Mark F. Scurti and Lori S. Simpson of Baltimore.

The Daily Record newspaper for the business and legal community will be recognized for publicizing the volunteer group's programs.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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