May 3, 2012

Tax Center closes after intense income tax season

By Joan Vasey
Scout Editor
Video capture by Thom Williams
Soldiers and civilian volunteers were recognized for their 2012 Tax Season service during a ceremony Friday which marked the closing of the Fort Huachuca Tax Assistance Center. The 13 personnel who staffed the FHTAC garnered clients $2.8 million in federal and state income tax refunds.

After more than four months of operation, the Fort Huachuca Tax Assistance Center on Christy Avenue formally closed its doors on Friday with a ceremony to recognize those who staffed the center and provided free tax assistance service to clients who used the facility.

Fort Huachuca has opened a tax assistance center for a number of years to assist service members and retirees with preparation of federal and state income taxes. According to Capt. Kyle Dietrich, 2012 FHTAC officer-in-charge, Fort Huachuca began offering this service during the 80s. “A high level JAG (Judge Advocate General) began it to provide an additional service to help Soldiers with financial readiness.”

This year, 11 military personnel and two civilian volunteers helped 1,194 clients — 386 retirees and 808 military personnel — receive $2.8 million in federal and state income tax refunds.

The center assisted 430 service members in grades E1 – E4; 129 military E5 – E6; 89 service members E7 – E9; 108 officers 01 – 03; 19 in grades 04 – 06; five general officers and 28 warrant officers, according to a TC volunteer-created database.

In addition to being open during normal operating hours, the staff sometimes assisted people early in the morning or in the evening, after-hours to accommodate clients.

All FHTAC staff had to undergo training and successfully pass an exam before they could help with tax preparation. They received certification through the Internal Revenue Service.

Soldiers received 40 hours of formal classroom training, with 15 hours of additional military-specific training and completed online self-study.

Volunteers similarly trained, gave hundreds of hours of volunteer service.

“One civilian had 350-plus hours of volunteer service,” Dietrich stated. “For her, it was a way to give back [to the community].”

According to Dietrich, one of the most beneficial aspects of the volunteer experience is learning to do taxes to help with their own future financial success.

The captain said that while the schedule could be hectic and demanding, he enjoyed being in charge of this year’s FHTAC.

“[I especially enjoyed] seeing the look on people’s faces when they saved money versus having to pay.”

One incident really stood out in Dietrich’s mind.

During a review of one woman’s past tax-filing paperwork, FHTAC staff determined the IRS owed more than $30,000 to the client.

“She was someone who could really use the extra help,” he stated, adding that the refund could make a real impact on her life.

“While this was an isolated case of someone getting that much, there were numerous such cases,” Dietrich said.

“Getting people more money than they expect is always good.”

While there are online programs such as Military OneSource where people can file taxes for free, and places that offer free or discounted federal income tax filing, Dietrich felt the FHTAC is a good service for Fort Huachuca to continue. For people such as the woman in his example, having trained personnel to assist with tax preparation and review definitely helped. He said if she had gotten no tax advice and filed on her own, she would not have known about the money. The captain added this service is a big plus for the military.

“As [Garrison Commander] Colonel Timothy Faulkner said in his remarks on [FHTAC] opening day, ‘We need to train Soldiers to be [financially] self sufficient.’”

Dietrich then commented on this year’s FHTAC staff.

“The people detailed to help out were outstanding; I couldn’t have asked for a better staff. They were self-motivated and self-starters. When I had to be out of the office taking care of other things, I knew everything would run smoothly. They were definitely an asset during this year’s tax season.”

The FHTAC always needs volunteers. Dietrich suggested people interested in volunteering next year for the 2012 season should call the Judge Advocate Office, Client Services Division, 533.2009, in December.

Early contact is necessary so people can get on the training schedule list. He also added that training can also be done online.

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