Navy Tax Centers Open for Tax Preparation

By Dania Bardavid, Office of the Judge Advocate General More than 100 Navy Tax Assistance Centers around the world are now open for business, ready to assist Sailors and their […]

By Dania Bardavid, Office of the Judge Advocate General

More than 100 Navy Tax Assistance Centers around the world are now open for business, ready to assist Sailors and their family members with their taxes.

Tax Assistance Centers provide Sailors, retirees and their dependent family members, as well as reservists in limited cases, and DoD civilians overseas or deployed with the U.S. Armed Forces, the ability to get help with their taxes for free by IRS-trained volunteers.

The purpose of this program is to help out Sailors, primarily junior enlisted Sailors and their dependents, by providing a means for them to get their taxes done at no cost. It is a great service that takes care of the Sailor so that they can focus on accomplishing their mission.

Navy tax assistance centers are a terrific resource for Sailors to get free assistance with their taxes almost anywhere around the globe and afloat. Sailors who electronically file their taxes at our tax centers can expect to receive their refund within 8-15 days.

During the 2010 income tax season, Navy volunteers with the VITA/ELF program filed more than 58,000 federal and state tax returns, saving service members and their family members more than $6.9 million in commercial tax preparation fees. The tax centers expedited $75 million in tax refunds, with 59% of those for pay grades E-1 to E-6.

This year, Naval Legal Service Command is transitioning to self-service tax assistance at its tax assistance centers within the continental U.S. and Hawaii. This will not affect overseas locations and Guam or tax assistance at most fleet-run sites.

The self-service program educates Sailors on tax preparation and promotes self-reliance and financial accountability, a life-long skill. Under self-service, Sailors and their families file their own tax returns using free tax filing software on computers established in Navy tax centers with the assistance of IRS-trained volunteers. Taxes are submitted electronically, and refunds are deposited directly into a Sailor’s bank account on an average of two weeks from the date of transmission.

Sailors using a tax assistance center will save money. Commercial tax preparation companies charge on average, more than $170 for the average electronically-filed return. There is no charge for VITA/self-service tax preparation.

Using a tax assistance center also reduces errors that can occur when preparing taxes on your own. Tax center volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS and are very knowledgeable on how to prepare your taxes. Sailors using a tax center will also avoid being marketed a short-term, high-interest loan that they do not need by tax preparation companies.

Taxes are due this year April 17, and tax assistance centers in the U.S. will be open through this date to accommodate Sailors. Sailors overseas will receive an automatic two-month extension to file their taxes; so overseas VITA centers will stay open for that time. Sailors deployed to a combat zone or who are part of a contingency operation get an automatic extension to file their taxes for at least 180 days upon their return.

Tax assistance centers in large fleet concentration and ECRC areas such as Norfolk and San Diego assist Sailors who are returning from a deployment year-round. Sailors who wish to file ‘married filing jointly’ and who wish to file their tax return electronically must be present with their spouse to sign the required forms. If their spouse cannot be present, they will need a valid power of attorney for tax preparation. Sailors who are deployed to a combat zone and wish to file ‘married filing jointly’ but did not give their spouse a power of attorney may still file their taxes. The spouse must attach a signed statement explaining that the Sailor is currently serving in a combat zone.

The VITA program and self-service program is available to those who qualify for legal assistance, including active duty military and their dependent family members, retirees and their dependent family members, Reservists in certain circumstances and Department of Defense civilians in limited circumstances when overseas, in a combat zone or on a contingency operation.

A complete list of U.S. Navy tax assistance centers is available online by accessing the Navy JAG website.

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