Fort Lee’s longstanding, no-cost military community support entity – the Tax Assistance Center – is scheduled to open its doors Jan. 29.
The TAC is located in building 5209, 20th Street, just off Shop Road and adjacent to the Army Women’s Museum. This marks the 32nd year community members have benefited from the tax preparation office that’s staffed by military and civilian volunteers, including many veterans.
“We’re pretty excited about this tax season and continuing the legacy of the program,” said Capt. Stuart Hamm, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate attorney who’s overseeing the activity this year. “Since 1988, we’ve been helping service members, retirees and their family members get annual tax filing done free of charge.”
You heard it right … nada, nil, nought, zilch … in the way of fees or filing costs.
TAC customers saved $454,272 in preparation fees and collected $5,143,514 in refunds last tax season. On average, similar services by a commercial vendor would cost a little over $175 per-appointment for standard form preparation, and upward to $300 or more for itemized deductions that require additional paperwork. Many of those vendors also tack on fees for audit protection and on-the-spot refund offers.
Year-after-year, the success of the TAC program can be attributed to its team of appointed military personnel and dedicated volunteers who apply the knowledge gleaned from Internal Revenue Service-provided training prior to the start of each tax season. The center also has several veteran volunteers who contribute decades of tax preparation experience.
“There is so much value the volunteer force adds to the operation,” Hamm said. “People like Mr. (Walter) Stith and others have served here before, and they bring a lot of institutional knowledge about how the taxes are prepared and who can assist the new faces in the tax center. They are very experienced in preparing some of the more complex returns, so it’s great to have them here with us.”
Stith has volunteered his services at the TAC for more than 24 years.
Last year, the TAC prepared 1,701 federal and 1,558 state returns. The key to achieving a high level of efficiency is ensuring customers are well-informed about the documents that are needed to fully complete form preparation. “Must-have” items when showing up for an appointment include military IDs, Social Security cards, all 1099 and W2 forms, mortgage documents, and any bank or investment institution statements (TSP, IRA) that list interest income. If direct deposit of a refund is desired, patrons will need bank account and routing numbers.
Additionally, powers of attorney are required for joint filers when spouses are not present, Hamm emphasized. “If a power of attorney needs to be made, they can obtain one at the Client Services Division (located at the SJA, building 8135),” he said.
When it opens, the TAC operating hours will be 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. The appointment line will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Appointment-only days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Walk-in days are Tuesday and Thursday. Appointments are being scheduled in two-week blocks, meaning customers desiring a specific date should call two weeks prior to request that time.
The filing deadline for this year’s tax season is April 15. The TAC will close its doors April 17. For more information and to set up appointments, call 804-734-5732.