Tax Center aids Soldiers, families, retirees with free preparation

| February 20, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sgt. Ricardo Branch
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, commanding general, 8th Theater Sustainment Command,  cut the ribbon to officially open the Schofield Barracks Tax Center for business, here, Jan. 26.

Terry said the Tax Center provides a valuable asset to Soldiers, families and retirees, and noted that last year’s Tax Center personnel successfully assisted 4,000 customers, saving them more than a million dollars in tax preparation costs and providing them access to $5.7 million dollars in returns.

At right, Spc. Elnur Iskandarov and 1st Lt. Mary Iskandorov meet with tax personnel for assistance at the Schofield Barracks Tax Center, Jan. 27. (Pfc. Darnell Collins | 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs)“This is going to be an even bigger year than last year for you all,” Terry said to the Tax Center personnel. “Soldiers really are going to get more for their taxes because of the work that you all will provide them here.”
Terry thanked everyone for helping make the Tax Center operational, including the director, Monica Ojeda, who interviewed many of the Soldiers selected for service at the center.

“The season has just started, but it’s going great,” Ojeda said. “We unofficially started servicing customers E-4 and below, Jan. 20. We opened our doors for them early, because we wanted to give the junior enlisted an opportunity to get their money first.”

Since opening its doors, the Tax Center has serviced more than 1,000 individuals, ranging from the  simple first-time tax filers to the challenging individual with many claims on his taxes, such as home mortgages.

“The official tax season for us is from Jan. 20 through April 15,” Ojeda said. “We want to service as many customers as possible, but those with extensions can come in throughout the year, during their extension window, to file their taxes.”

To help with the workload, 14 Soldiers are handling the taxes in two shifts, to lower the wait time for customers.

“It’s pretty nice working here,” said Sgt. Joshua Peterson, U.S. Army-Pacific. “Although the wait can be a bit long, we do what we can to speed it up and treat each customer like the first one who entered that day.
“Most people don’t even understand taxes that much, so we break it down for them so they leave with a bit more knowledge than when they entered,” Peterson explained.

All customers are advised to bring along the following documents to the tax centers at Schofield and Shafter to speed up the process:

• W2 for all wages received,
• State income tax return (prior year),
• Military ID (self and spouse),
• Property tax receipts,
• Receipts for charitable contributions,
• Social Security card,
• Home mortgage interest statements,
• Power of attorney (if necessary),
• Prior-year tax return,
• Proof of education expenses,
• Educator expenses,
• Savings account interest statement,
• Individual retirement account (IRA) statement,
• Statements reflecting gains/losses,
• Stimulus payment statement,
• Student loan interest statement,
• Divorce decree (if applicable).

Since the start of this year’s tax season, Soldiers have already saved a combined total of $350,000 in tax preparation costs, and received $2 million back in tax refunds within the first three weeks.

Although Soldiers can go anywhere to file their taxes, Ojeda has three pieces of advice for anyone considering that option.

“First off, our service is free,” she said. “Two, it’s convenient because it’s right on post, and three, because the people who prepare your taxes are military, we understand your issues versus those on the economy.”

Additionally, Soldiers are advised to look out for the following warning signs if considering an off-post tax center:

• Phony refund e-mails,
• Tax rebate scams, and/or
• Fake audit information.

Soldiers are encouraged to use Army tax centers at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter to prevent any pitfalls or issues that could potentially arise from off-post tax centers.  

For more assistance on taxes, contact Monica Ojeda at the Schofield Barracks Tax Center at 655-1040.



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