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Many happy returns

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:27PM January 24th, 2013
Many happy returns

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Tax preparers Spc. Andrew Gustafson, right, and Spc. Idis Martinez work together during a JBLM Tax Center training day.

Last year, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord tax center prepared a record 8,000 tax returns and generated $16 million in tax refunds for military service members, retirees, reservists and National Guard troops. This year, they’ve set their sights even higher.

With the 2013 goal of preparing 10,000 returns and claiming $20 million in refunds, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, I Corps deputy commanding general, officially opened the JBLM Tax Center on Lewis Main for the current tax season at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 16.

“This is a great thing we do for our entire community,” Buchanan said. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of these free services. We, as individual service members are also taxpayers and citizens, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that we meet our obligations required by our tax laws.”

The JBLM Tax Center is unveiling a new drop-off program this year for service members in grades E-1 through E-4. The program allows junior enlisted service members to leave their forms at the tax center and return to pick them up once they are completed.

“We were really missing out on those young service members, which is really who the tax center is for,” said Capt. Keaton Troy, Tax Center director. “The purpose of the drop-off program is to give priority to junior enlisted service members whose tax returns may not be as complicated.”

The tax center is operated by volunteers and 34 service members borrowed from other units. Service members reported for duty at the tax center in November and have been training since to become certified tax preparers.

Specialist Jessica Huffman, whose military occupational specialty is heavy machinery operation, is excited about the opportunity to serve the military community at the tax center.

“I have a degree in communication, but I originally started out in accounting, so I’m excited to use some of the knowledge I already have,” Huffman said.

The JBLM tax center is open year-round to support redeployers and reserve and National Guard demobilizing off deployment, Troy said, since service members receive a six-month extension to file their tax returns when they have been deployed.

IRS W-2 forms showing 2012 earnings are available to service members today, and with the passage of the American Tax Relief Act Jan. 3, tax returns can be electronically filed as early as Jan. 30.

The tax center operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until April 15. After tax day, hours will be scaled back to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Retirees are given priority from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays.

Full colonels and above or anyone with income from rental property should make appointments by calling 967-2463, Troy said.

Troy encourages those using the tax center services to bring Social Security cards for themselves and any spouses and dependents, wage and earnings statements, interest and dividend statements and any documentation related to income or expenses like child care.

The JBLM Tax Center is in Building T6069, across from the Exchange at the intersection of 41st Division Drive and Nevada Avenue. The McChord Field Tax Center is in Building 100, Room 3005, and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.