Midway through the 2013 tax season, the March Air Reserve Base Volunteer Income Tax Assistance center, or VITA, took a moment to recognize its second year in operation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, officiated by the 452d Air Mobility Wing commander, Col. Samuel Mahaney, Feb. 14.
“This is our second year of providing free tax service to active duty, reservists, Guard, retirees and DOD civilians, here at March — this year, we expanded our reach-of-service to include all March employees, supporting the overall mission,” said Gabriel Verhage, director, March ARB, VITA tax center. “My staff and I know how to retrieve the largest, legal refund possible and if the situation is reversed and a client owes, we will research ways to minimize that amount.”
Verhage, a U.S. Navy veteran, has been in the tax business for more than 15 years. He was the marketing director for a nationally-recognized tax firm in San Diego, Calif. The VITA staff consists of fully-trained active duty, retired and spouse volunteers.
“The staff here is great, without them, this service would not be possible,” said Verhage.
Marylyn Hackett, VITA office manager and retired Chief Master Sgt., explained that she is responsible for in-processing clients. She conducts a private initial interview to reveal pertinent information, after which, compiles the data and forwards the package to the tax preparers — this method streamlines the process and allows for speedier, more organized service.
Verhage stated they could prepare a standard tax return in about 15 minutes.
In comparison to last year, the VITA center increased their activities by 47 percent, said Verhage. Last year, they completed more than 600 federal and state returns and this year, expect to process a minimum of 800 returns, he said
“It’s fantastic,” said Master Sgt. Chris Schuldes, 452d Airlift Control Flight. “This is a service that has been sorely needed — they did my taxes last year. Some bases are actually charging for this service and it is a relief to know that our leadership has allowed this free service to operate, here at March.”
Maj. Deric Prescott, 452d Staff Judge Advocate was on hand to reveal an interesting fact. He stated that March ARB has the only VITA center in the Air Force Reserve Command. “We truly believe we can enhance the mission by helping our people,” said Prescott.
When the official ribbon cutting commenced, Mahaney took a moment to render a heart-felt address to those in attendance.
“Our number one driving leadership principle here at March is to take care of our people, so they can take care of the mission. This service allows our members to worry less about the cumbersome processes associated with tax preparation and allows them to concentrate more on their jobs. When you are talking about taking care of your people, it is not some pie-in-the-sky thing. It’s no kidding, getting right in there with them and meeting their needs.”
Verhage thanked March leadership for allowing them to market their tax service. The support letters from the wing commander, 452 commander, base-wide E-mails, Beacon and social media advertising and the accessibility to base personnel, allowed them to spread the word and offer March members a much needed service.
In the upcoming years, the March VITA center expects to have more tax preparers and more advertising, to bring in more clients for the free service. Their goal is to exceed more than 1200 tax returns processed in a single tax season, said Verhage.