19 January 2012
Free Tax Assistance for Military personnel and families

By Brett C. Conyers

Legal Assistance Attorney

The Fort Detrick Tax Center will open Jan. 23 to assist eligible taxpayers with filing both federal and state income tax returns. Active members of the armed forces, including mobilized reservists, military retirees, and their families are eligible for assistance.

Visit the Tax Center home page by clicking on the banner displayed on the Fort Detrick website, www.detrick.army.mil.You will need to download and complete the Intake Form, show your I.D. card, and bring a social security card (or photocopy) for each person named on the return.Follow the "what to bring" advice (also described in the Intake Form) to make your visit a one-stop success.

Overseen by the Internal Revenue Service and managed by the Staff Judge Advocate, the Tax Center is supported by commanders to promote readiness and the quality of life. Commanders have given a special detail to nine soldiers to serve in the Tax Center this year. It is not too late to serve in the Tax Center as a volunteer.

If you are interested contact the Legal Assistance Office at the number below or the Volunteer Coordinator at (301) 619-3171.

If you have not visited a military tax center before, here are some reasons to do so this filing season. First, services are free for eligible taxpayers. We estimate that the cumulative cost savings to the community in 2011 was more than $120,000. (This equates to an average of $262 per federal return prepared and e-filed.)

Secondly, you receive you refund by direct deposit into your bank account within 7-10 days after the Tax Center transmits your return. Next, you receive assistance from soldiers and volunteers who are certified under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program as competent to file basic returns.

Each preparer must complete a 40-hour course required by the IRS and pass four rigorous tests to be certified to prepare returns.However, the training and certification is still limited to taxpayers with low to moderate income.

Not all subjects common to the military community are within the scope of the VITA program. You may be referred to a military attorney in the Legal Assistance Office if your preparer encounters a subject that is beyond the scope of the VITA program.Even military attorneys are prohibited from giving assistance with matters that are outside the scope of the Army Legal Assistance Program.

For instance, anyone (such as an independent contractor who receives a 1099-Misc) who has income from a personally owned business or commercial enterprise will be referred to a commercial preparer to file a Schedule C.

This is because Army policy prohibits assistance with any matter related to a personal business. The one exception is assistance filing Schedule C-EZ is offered to family child care providers enrolled under the Installation Child and Youth Services Program.

For an appointment call (301) 619-1040 or visit the Tax Center. If you have any questions contact the Legal Assistance Office at (301) 619-2065.

Posted by PAO

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   - the official newspaper for Fort Detrick.
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