Fort Irwin Tax Center thrives amid pandemic, extended filing deadline

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The Tax Center at the National Training Center and Fort Irwin were able to adjust to conditions under a pandemic and file nearly 1,000 tax returns during this tax season.

Taxes were prepared remotely and tax filers were given the option to submit their taxes to the IRS themselves through the mail or to wait until the Tax Center was approved to open safely, at which time they could sign their tax documents and have them e-filed to the IRS through the Tax Center,” Jessaka Menzie, Chief of Client Services with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate said. “Most tax filers were understanding and satisfied with the options provided.”

The Internal Revenue Service began accepting and processing federal tax returns on Jan. 27 and although the normal tax season ends on April 15, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the deadline to July 15.

Fort Irwin’s Tax Center had a total of 439 soldiers, 242 spouses and 54 retirees file their taxes with their office this year. There were 974 federal and state returns that were electronically filed, saving families more than $141,000 in preparation fees.

The Fort Irwin Tax Center operates under the supervision of the Legal Assistance Office and in conjunction with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. All tax preparers are volunteers from units at Fort Irwin, trained and certified under the VITA program.

Tax Center personnel received the Army Achievement Medal from the Garrison Commander, Col. Jeanette Martin, as well as a coin from NTC’s Commanding General, Brig. Gen. David Lesperance at the closing of the Tax Center. One civilian was also recognized with a Certificate of Appreciation.

The Tax Center said preparing taxes during a pandemic had its challenges but they were able to adapt to remote operations while providing limited services. Once the center was approved to open under restricted conditions.

“All tax filers were required to make an appointment to complete the process in order to limit the number of people in the Tax Center,” Menzie said. “Tax filers were required to wear masks and to socially distance from others while in the Tax Center. This safe process allowed for the tax filers and Tax Center personnel to complete the tax filing process with low risk of exposure to the coronavirus.”

The number of people filing taxes with Fort Irwin’s Tax Center were slightly lower this year, compared to last year but officials say that is an Army-wide trend, due to COVID- 19.

“The virus hugely impacted the Tax Center’s ability to provide the same type of services as were provided in prior years where the threat did not exist,” Menzie said.

Even with the extended tax filing deadline, some filers may have missed the new deadline. To avoid penalties and fees imposed by the IRS, taxpayers need to file as soon as possible. They can still file their taxes for free through the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free.

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