• Tax Center begins taking appointments

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  • Amanda Kislia | Fort Leavenworth Tax Assistance Center
    The Fort Leavenworth Tax Assistance Center opens at 10 a.m. today to begin taking appointments.
    Soldiers E-5 and below with a simple return (no schedules or child custody issues), can drop off documents and come back to sign when the return is ready. Higher ranks and retirees can make an appointment at Tax Center 615 McClellan Ave. or call 684-4986. All ranks and retirees are welcome to have their personal income taxes prepared free, subject to Legal Assistance and Internal Revenue Service limitations.
    Each year, volunteers are recruited at Post Activity Information and Registration Day, retirement fairs and during the tax season itself. At Fort Leavenworth, we do things a little differently than at many other military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance centers and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly sites, and each year we try to improve our process.
    This year we have 15 experienced volunteer preparers, all of whom have volunteered with the Tax Center before. Not all of our tax preparers are volunteers. We are fortunate to have three full-time and one part-time active-duty soldiers and one full-time civilian employee dedicated to the Tax Center.
    Our training process is both thorough and rigorous. We get down to business the first week of January, eight hours a day, for six days. The IRS provides training materials and a trainer, and our current manager, who has multiple years of tax and legal experience, presents the majority of the training. We learn about federal tax returns, with military- and retiree-specific issues emphasized. The Kansas Department of Revenue sends a representative to teach us about Kansas tax returns, and we also receive a block of instruction on Missouri tax returns, which is typically taught by the Tax Center manager. At the conclusion of our week of training, we start the certification testing process. The certification process takes most people at least eight hours to complete, and covers ethics, standards of conduct, intake and interview, and quality review, as well as basic, advanced and military issues.
    That is just the start of the training process. Each week in January and February, Tax Center staff has additional training in administration, income documents, Schedule A for itemized deductions, state returns, Schedule D for stock sales, Schedule E for rental properties, and other training as needed. In addition to the group training, each first-year preparer is shadowed as they prepare returns until they are ready to fly “solo.” Rovers are experienced preparers who can assist with questions, consult with peers or research the answer with various IRS resources, and who can also liaison with the Legal Assistance attorney when a tax question evolves into a legal question.
    Our resources are unparalleled. We have the IRS website, training materials, Publication 17, Pub 4012, and a personal point of contact at the IRS for our questions. We have military-specific guidance for each and every state. Finally, at every workstation is a three-ring binder with information papers, reference pages and spreadsheets to ensure that returns are prepared as accurately and as efficiently as possible.
    Page 2 of 2 - In addition to having such a comprehensive training process, the actual tax return is looked at by at least six sets of eyes: the preparer, the rover, the taxpayer, the reviewer, the e-filer, and even a preview by the IRS, set up specifically for military VITA sites. Some taxpayers comment that our documentation and identification requirements are more stringent than at commercial preparers. For example, we are required to see a Social Security card for each person on the return, including active-duty military (with few exceptions). This is actually an IRS requirement for all tax preparers. The fact that our requirements are more exacting and strictly enforced is ultimately an additional safeguard to our customers with regard to the potential threats of identity theft or fraud. Military VITA tax centers fall under the Legal Assistance Office at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, and are strictly monitored by the IRS to reduce the risk of error or fraud.
    The bottom line is this — if you want your personal federal and state income tax returns prepared accurately, efficiently and free of charge, come to the Fort Leavenworth Tax Assistance Center. Bring all applicable documents and identification; and bring your 2017 return as well. If you are expecting to owe taxes, come early in the season and you can still wait to pay until April 17. We are looking forward to meeting you and assisting you in filing an accurate return.
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