F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
Many products and services are offered to military members at a discounted price or even free, and tax-filing is one of these well-known services. Tax preparers may claim their service or software usage is free, but then a pesky fee to file takes one by surprise.
Imagine a place offering completely free assistance, to include filing, by IRS certified individuals who not only do the dirty work, but also explain the process, reasoning and provide tips for next year’s returns. The F.E. Warren Tax Center’s team of volunteers provide all that and more.
As Volunteer Income Tax Assistance trained and certified by the local IRS representative, the tax center has dedicated volunteers and some with up to 20 years of experience. Capt. Charles Grimsley, 90th Missile Wing assistant staff judge advocate and tax center officer in charge, believes each volunteer is willing to assist in filing taxes in any way they can.
By using the tax center, customers are guaranteed zero, assistance and filing, fees.
However, CBS Money Watch reported individuals could pay anywhere from $159 to $447 for assistance with their taxes. The IRS does not require paid tax preparers to have any certifications, and there is the chance that specific military deductions could be missed. Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Fowlkes, 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron Tax Center NCO in charge, remarked that this means even if an individual used popular filing software or hired an accountant, they would receive the same quality of service, if not better, from the base tax center absolutely free.
Grimsley shared a personal experience of paying a private CPA $350 to organize and file his taxes. After relocating to F.E. Warren, he filed his taxes at the center here and became aware of multiple deductions he was not applying. As icing on the cake, the tax center found $1,500 in returns missed by the private CPA the year prior.
The proof is in the numbers. So far this tax season, the tax center has saved their 408 customers $49,924 in filing fees with returns at $721,394 and climbing.
Grimsley attributed this year’s success to the volunteers’ supportive attitudes toward their customers.
“Base tax centers are now optional, meaning squadron commanders are not required to give bodies to staff the center,” said Grimsley. “As a result, we have an extremely committed group of volunteers who give at least eight hours or more a week.”
One volunteer who embodies the kind of dedication given to the tax center is Leigh-ann Miller, a military spouse who easily surpasses the eight volunteer hours and provides detailed guidance and explanations to her customers.
“Mrs. Miller is the tax center’s onsite expert,” Fowlkes stated. “She has researched countless questions, then turns around and shares what she has learned with the other volunteers so we can provide better assistance. She focuses on educating customers and relieving some of the fears associated with filing their taxes.”
Motivation to help the Air Force and local retiree communities comes from various sources, depending on the volunteer. Some volunteers’ motivation is derived from the relationships built over time with active duty, retirees, Reserve, guard, Department of Defense civilians and dependents. Others find their motivation from the learning experience and ability to positively affect the community on a major scale.
“I wanted to learn about taxes and I thought this was the perfect opportunity,” said 2nd Lt. Ethan Hoder, 319th Missile Squadron tax center volunteer. “I quickly learned that it is an epicenter where you can really affect the community, wing and the base as a whole.”
The tax center has aided customers from outside the local area, some from as far as Boulder, Colorado, and Fowlkes stated that this service is available to anyone with access to the base.
“Our number one goal is to serve the Airmen. We are here for them,” Grimsley said. “That being said, we want to help as many dependents and retirees as we can.”
Tax center services are also available to re-deployers who qualify for delayed filing.
Operating hours are Monday through Friday by appointment only and will close for the season on April 18.
For further information, please contact the tax center at 773-5829.