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With the beginning of a new year also comes the beginning of income tax season, and once again, the Fort Benning tax center will be open to serve Soldiers, Families and retirees.
The tax center, located at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate General at Building 2839, 6450 Way Street, is set to open Feb. 1.
Capt. Matthew B. Tokarczyk, the officer overseeing the center, said the center will provide Soldiers, Family members and retirees with a free service that could prove to be expensive in the private sector.
The great thing about this is its free, Tokarczyk said. We file federal and state returns for all active duty personnel, retirees and all dependents. If they were to have that done at an accounting firm, it could add up pretty quickly.
And, while private tax centers often charge customers higher fees depending on the complexity of the return, the center does not charge Soldiers a fee, no matter the complexity of the return.
For a single Soldier, it would cost them at least $40 somewhere in the private sector, but depending on how complex the return is with deductions, that can go upward of $300 to $500, Tokarczyk said. That all really depends on the complexity of the return, but it will be free here.
In 2011, the center saved Soldiers more than $550,000 in tax preparation fees, and the total amount of refunds issued by state and federal agencies was more than $8,770,000. Tokarczyk said he was unsure how much money the center saved Soldiers in 2012.
With recent economic debates in Congress, there was a bit of uncertainty surrounding this years income tax season.
Those debates caused a bit of a shift in the tax centers normal operating schedule, as the center is not planned to open until Feb. 1. While most filers will be able to file when the center opens, some may have to wait until later in the tax season.
Tax filers who own rental properties and who must file a Form 4562 (depreciation and amortization) will have to wait until late February, possibly as late as March, to file.
That form is used to determine the depreciation of the home itself, and must be filed with any returns claiming rental income.
The delay is related to software programming changes and testing that must be conducted by the IRS in the wake of fiscal cliff legislation that was passed by Congress.
A full list of forms that will not be accepted until later in the tax season can be found at http://1.usa.gov/WwI3DB.
Those planning on taking advantage of the centers services must be sure to bring all the necessary documents to the center.
Everyone who visits the center will need a Social Security card, a military ID for the taxpayer and all dependents and any W2 forms that will be included in the return.
Outside of those required documents, any other documentation will be left to the discretion of the taxpayer.
Anything they want to put on their tax return, they have to bring, Tokarczyk said. If they bring it in, we can take a look at it, and make sure it is put in its proper place.
The center will e-file most returns, and if a refund is due, it should be returned to the taxpayer within seven to 12 business days. Any returns that are unable to be e-filed, the center will mail for the taxpayer.
No appointments are required, and all services will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. With Tokarczyk hoping to file 5,000 tax returns this year, there could be a long wait at times.
The only downside is there may be a bit of a wait, but you can count on it being done right, Tokarczyk said.
In all, Tokarczyk said he expects to have 21 or 22 workers helping to file returns at the center. Of those, 17 will be Soldiers that have been certified as tax return preparers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
I know theres often a stigma that Soldiers may not want other Soldiers doing their taxes, but this is a good group, and theyre going to do some great work this year, Tokarczyk said.
Volunteer Thomas Funk, who has worked at the center for the last three tax seasons, said he is confident that the Soldiers and other workers will be prepared to help with even some of the more complicated returns.
The center is sponsored by the IRS, and they provide some pretty thorough training, Funk said. The Army also supplements that with some additional training that is rather extensive. It often lasts many weeks, and they will put together some unusual scenarios and have the Soldiers work through them to make sure theyre prepared for unusual situations. The folks who run the center have a very sound methodology, and it has produced excellent results the last three years.
The center will be open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The last taxpayer will be accepted 30 minutes to 1 hour before close, and the centers last day of operation will be April 15.
For more information, contact the center at 706-545-4267.