Tax season is already here, but there is no reason to fret, because the Fort Hood Tax Center will help alleviate all the stress involved in preparing a tax return.
Certified Internal Revenue Service tax attorneys were at the Great Place last week leading training sessions for the 45 volunteer tax preparers to become certified tax professionals.
Citing mission readiness as the biggest reason for the FHTC, Capt. Gabrielle Bloodshaw, the officer-in-charge of the FHTC, said the Army’s whole goal is for Soldiers to be mission ready.
“We want Soldiers to be prepared in every aspect of their lives, so they don’t have to worry about these outside issues,” Bloodshaw explained. “They can just concentrate on their mission. So we prepare their taxes for free to alleviate some of those worries.”
The FHTC prepares returns for more than 4,000 Soldiers, retirees and family members annually. While normal tax professionals are certified in basic or advanced tax preparation, the Fort Hood volunteers are also certified in military tax preparation. Bloodshaw said military tax preparation has specific issues, such as rental property or non-taxable deployment pay, that requires special attention.
“They learn everything from what a dependent is, who can file taxes, who needs to file taxes, what exemptions there are, what credits are available,” she said. “Pretty much the whole gambit of tax law.”
Learning all the ins-and-outs of taxes is something Sgt. 1st Class Felix Soto, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cav. Division, said has been the best part of the extensive training.
“We’ve been learning all the pieces of how the taxes and refunds work,” Soto said. “It’s been very interesting.”
Although he’s only 20-years-old, Pfc. Jeremiah Carter, 112th Cav. Regt., 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav. Div., agrees with Soto about the educational experience.
“A lot of people my age don’t know how to do their taxes,” Carter said. “I’m learning something that will put me ahead of my age group. I figured it was a good opportunity and something I could put on my resume, if or when I decide to get out of the Army.”
Just like filing anywhere else, the FHTC will electronically file the tax forms, allowing clients faster access to their tax return money. Bloodshaw said only rare circumstances would cause a return to be sent via regular mail.
In 2019, the FHTC prepared 4,303 federal returns and 420 state returns, with the Army’s lowest error rate at 3.2%. The free tax returns saved Fort Hood families $2 million in tax preparation fees.
“Although 3.2% isn’t bad, our goal is to be under that this year,” she said.
Besides being free, Bloodshaw said the best reason to use the service is to reduce the risk of an agency or accountant taking advantage of the tax payer.
“There’s no reason anyone here would try to take advantage of you,” she continued, “so they can be assured that we’re trustworthy and the Soldiers are working hard to get them the best possible return.”
The FHTC will have a ribbon cutting ceremony at 8 a.m. Tuesday and will begin seeing clients at 1:30 p.m. the same day. Hours of operation are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Wednesday and Friday. Extended hours will be from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. The tax center will be closed on weekends, all federal holidays and III Corps training holidays. The final day to file taxes through the FHTC is April 16.
Tax professionals will see clients by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling 254-288-7995 or 254-287-3294. The tax center is located in Bldg. 13, on 52nd St. (west of III Corps Headquarters). Services are available to active duty Soldiers, families and retirees.
Clients need to bring with them a copy of their military identification, Social Security card for every family member, all income documents, such as W2s, 1099s, interest income from banking, miscellaneous income, child care expense receipts, college 1098-Ts and a copy of last year’s tax return.
Bloodshaw advises people not wait to file their taxes. She said people should gather up all the necessary paperwork, so they can begin to e-file as early as Jan. 27. Any returns filed through the FHTC early will be e-filed on Jan. 27.