The March Air Reserve Base Volunteer Income Tax Assistance tax center has had another banner year, as the last week of tax preparation season comes to an end, April 19.
According to Ms. Effie White, VITA center volunteer, the all-volunteer staff excelled at accurately preparing, reviewing and filing tax returns for a large part of the March community.
“Most individuals who filed their returns electronically through the March ARB VITA site received their refunds within two to three weeks,” said White. “I could not be more impressed with our team of volunteers this year. Our team was comprised of three civilians, four 912th Air Refueling Squadron members, an U.S. Army officer and a few more volunteers who worked part-time, according to their schedules. Once again, we propelled the only VITA site in the Air Force Reserve Command to record numbers.”
U.S. Army Maj. Anthony Gordon, judge advocate, 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, explained that volunteering at the VITA tax center gave him the opportunity to interact with members representing the different services that make up the U.S. Armed Forces. Helping members take care of important tax obligations so they could focus on their jobs of protecting this nation was a pleasure, he said.
Major Deric Prescott, 951 RSPTS Staff Judge Advocate, explained that more than 820 returns were prepared and filed, as of April 4. “These returns resulted in over $906,000 in federal and $175,411 in state refunds – resulting in over one million dollars in refunds for our base population and veterans, while saving our members over $150,000 in tax preparation fees from a paid preparer,” said Prescott.
The VITA center was unable to provide service on the Unit Training Assembly weekends, due to a lack of volunteers. However, they were often seen working long after the doors were closed at 4 p.m.
Ms. Marylyn Hackett, volunteer office manager and retired 4th Air Force Chief Master Sgt., noted that although some clients were required to adjust their work schedules and endure longer wait-times for their returns, the advantage of having a tax center that understood the intricacies of military life, far outweighed any inconvenience. When 4 p.m. rolled around and customers were still present, the workflow kept going until the job was done, Hackett said.
Staff Sgt. Richard Kline and wife Theeraya, both volunteered in the tax center and as an added bonus, Theeraya frequently brought in baked goods for the volunteers and the clients.
“We started volunteering around Jan. 11. For hours, I would say about 75 total hours of my time was spent helping some of the younger Airmen in my squadron with preparing their taxes. I would walk them through the process, step-by-step, on how to properly file their taxes, so they truly understood how each part worked,” said Sergeant Kline.
A veteran preparer, Staff Sgt. Sara Luna, 912th ARS, developed a solid working knowledge on how to retrieve the largest “legal” return possible.
“I started working at tax center last year. During that time, I worked approximately 236 hours. On my return as a VITA volunteer, I increased my efforts by working approximately 270 hours,” said Luna. “I thoroughly enjoy volunteering at the tax center on base each year. I have gained an immense amount of knowledge regarding the rules involved with the Internal Revenue Service and the filing of federal and a multitude of state returns. It is extremely rewarding when customers express their gratitude for our free filing services, our expertise and professionalism. Tech. Sgt. Crystal Goff and I were usually able to find little-known deductions for military members – saving them even more money on their returns.
If interested in volunteering at the March VITA tax center next year, please call 951-655-3659 or e-mail Marchvita@yahoo.com.