Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
The 2020 Tax Season came to an end July 15.
This year, the Fort Leavenworth Tax Assistance Center spent more than 1,800 hours helping retirees, soldiers and their family members save $292,430 on commercial tax preparation fees and prepared 1,679 returns resulting in more than $1.9 million in federal and state refunds.
The deadline to file taxes every year is usually April 15, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline was extended to July 15, and the Tax Center adjusted accordingly.
“We were booked up with appointments through the end of the tax season when we had to close the Tax Center in March,” said Amanda Kislia, Fort Leavenworth Legal Assistance Office paralegal specialist. “We called everyone who was scheduled and canceled the appointments and put them on a list for when we reopened. Our clients are the best, and everyone was gracious.”
Kislia said the adjustment was hard, but was grateful for the eight volunteers, three military personnel and one temporary civilian employee who helped make it a success.
“This was the longest tax season I have ever experienced,” Kislia said. “But (everyone) did an outstanding job and came up with ways to accomplish the mission and keep everyone safe.
“Our volunteers graciously came back and helped when we were allowed to reopen on a limited basis with minimal contact, masks and frequent wiping down,” she said. “We did a lot of the client interviews by telephone instead of face-to-face. …We did it but missed a lot of the interaction with the clients and the opportunity to teach them what they need to do to help with the tax burden in later years.”
Three-year volunteer Rod Ziemer said there were good parts and bad parts when it came time to reopen the Tax Center.
“When we were allowed to come back for the extended tax period, the ability to work the taxes without distractions was helpful, but the absence of the taxpayer to validate or provide additional information required a lot of phone calls. Answering questions and ensuring the taxpayer understood certain procedures became a challenge,” Ziemer said. “I think the tax center was run extremely efficiently through this oddity of procedures. With some people being unable to return and responsibilities shifting (the center created) what I believe was an effective operation.
“The cooperative attitude of all volunteers, soldiers and (Staff Judge Advocate) personnel is the key to maintaining a quality service,” he said. “The flexibility of this group rising to the special effects that shook the process was outstanding.”