• Post Tax Assistance Center to open Jan. 29

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    It’s almost tax season and the Fort Leavenworth Tax Assistance Center is busy training volunteers to help all eligible active-duty soldiers, retirees and their family members file their 2017 income tax returns at no cost.
    Sixteen volunteers with a combined experience of 136 years attended six days of training from Jan. 3-10 at the Leavenworth Public Library to learn Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).
    “It’s a tax preparation class … and it goes line by line of the tax preparation form and teaches us the exemptions, income and deductions,” said Tax Assistance Center Officer in Charge 1st Lt. Hyun Muñiz, Legal Assistance Office. “We get material from the (Internal Revenue Service) and we use online software provided by the IRS to do practice labs.”
    Even for those who have volunteered in the past, the training is important because of state and federal changes that happen from year to year.
    “They’re learning the new tax laws, our program and how to fill out the taxes in the best way,” said Amanda Kislia, manager of the Tax Center. “At the end, they take a test to get certified.”
    The Tax Center will open for appointments from Jan. 29 through April 15 and will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays.
    Soldiers who are E-5 and below and their families have the option to use the drop-off service instead of making an appointment.
    “They come in, make copies of all of their stuff and they can drop it off. We fill it out, we call them and they come in and sit down and talk about it, but they don’t have to physically be there the whole time,” Kislia said. “It helps the ones who have two W-2s or one W-2 and that’s it; it makes it easier.”
    The Tax Center does have limitations and will not help with more complex tax preparation, Kislia said. For example, active-duty soldiers who have more than one rental property or own businesses may need to seek tax help elsewhere.
    “The only businesses we support are the (family child care) providers,” Kislia said.
    Using the Tax Center comes with certain benefits.
    “They can always do their own taxes online but if you want someone else to help you, if you have questions about what’s deductible or if you have taxes a little beyond the very basic, you can talk to a volunteer who’s been trained in it to help explain things a little more and prepare slightly more complicated taxes,” Muñiz said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Kislia said using the Tax Center increases the chance of returns being filed correctly.
    “At least two people are going to look at it before it gets sent off so it’s more likely that it’ll be correct,” she said.
    First-year volunteer Pfc. Shanice Stover, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combined Arms Center, said she chose to volunteer for the learning experience and found that learning the limitations for VITA was the most useful.
    Third-year volunteer Laura Harber, wife of retired Col. Dennis Harber, said she enjoys doing taxes and that there’s a benefit to having volunteered for multiple years.
    “I think it’s a way to give back. We were recipients of a lot of benefits being active duty for almost 30 years, and we try to help out, especially the younger people,” Harber said. “You learn more the more times you’ve done this (and) a lot of us volunteers have been doing this for a long time so there’s a friendship among volunteers, too.”
    Harber said the experience and training volunteers receive at the Tax Center offers a lot to the customer.
    “We can do their taxes at no cost and if we can’t do it, through the legal office, we have a way to refer them somewhere else where they could get help in a pattern that would not be cost prohibitive to them,” Harber said. “There’s a lot of knowledgeable people here that can really help people. Young people who have never done taxes before, we can educate them a little bit, too.”
    The grand opening of the Tax Center is at 10 a.m. Jan. 25 at 615 McClellan Ave. and appointments can be made at that time. To make an appointment, call 684-4986. For more information on the Tax Center, eligibility requirements or to download a tax questionnaire before an appointment, call or stop by the Tax Center or visit http://usacac.army.mil/about-cac/staff/sja/taxes.
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