I’m going to give free advice.
As you know, I hate giving free advice. Us lawyers fall prey to folks wanting free advice almost every day we work. In this case, however, I give it, and I give it gladly.
If you are a member of the armed forces (or retiree) and you have an ID card to prove it, go get your taxes done for free.
I’m giving free advice about free stuff. Double bonus.
Each Winter/Spring, US military installations across the globe open tax centers for military ID card holders. The centers are staffed with trained tax preparers and VITA volunteers, and they do a fantastic job.
Don’t believe me? See what Colonel Charles Williams said about the tax center at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (a relatively small military installation).
“We save each Soldier an average of $200 in tax preparation fees,” said Col. Charles Williams, Fort Leonard Wood Garrison commander. “ That is one of the many benefits that Soldiers receive. The Staff Judge Advocate office has a phenomenal office and done a fantastic job both with the claims process and will do a great job with this.”
See that whole thing about it being at the Staff Judge Advocate Office? Yeah, it’s run by lawyers. In fact, one manages the center full-time, and he’s been to several courses to learn about 2010 tax rules and laws (all in anticipation of his leadership of the tax center). Try finding that at your local H&R Block. Ask any of the lawyers with whom I associate; this is a huge benefit.
So, who is it for?
Tax preparation is available to Soldiers and their spouses, as well as reservists and guardsmen on active duty orders at [insert your nearest military installation] and retirees.
What can they handle?
- 1040EZ Forms
- 1040A Forms
- 1040 Forms
- Itemized Deductions
- Rental Property Income
- Investment Income
How do I know? I’ve used their services for more than 10 years, and my returns have consistently been flawless–even when it included rental property income. Last year, for instance, I saved over $400 in preparation fees.
The one service they do not offer is business taxes. If you are a business owner, you still must look to a CPA or your own prowess with TurboTax.
If you have a question about whether they can do your taxes, just call. They’ll gladly tell you.
Still not convinced? Check out the bigger picture for small, out-of-the-way Fort Leonard Wood.
According to the tax center, they assisted more than 5,000 servicemembers, retirees and their dependants last year; prepared 2,574 Federal returns; 2,541 State returns and 1,354 Missouri Non Resident forms; for a total of 6,469 individual income tax forms prepared. They electronically filed over 2,417 Federal returns and over 3,700 State income tax forms with low rejection rates. The center was responsible for saving the Fort Leonard Wood community $634,639 in preparation fees and more than $6,187,519 in refunds.
Still not convinced? See what my former boss (great dude) has to say about it.
“If last year was a blue print of what is to come, we hope to save Soldiers more than $500,000 in tax preparation fees,” said Col. James Agar. “It is a benefit to our Soldiers and Soldiers taking care of Soldiers is what we do best. This mission is critical to the legal administration mission. It is a direct impact to Soldiers and their family members as well.”
Seriously, if you’re not convinced by this point, you are either stupid or impossibly cynical about Armed Forces law offices. Go give your money away to some corporation.
Sure, the military tax centers won’t give you a loan on your tax return (in my view, a variant of payday lending and other predatory schemes), but they will prepare your taxes in a professional and enlightened manner. You’ll get your return (if one is coming to you) as soon as possible without paying a convenience fee to some corporation looking to make money from your tax confusion.
Get on the Googles and find your nearest installation tax center. Schedule an appointment as soon as you have all the necessary paperwork.
Just go. Call them.
No need to thank me. Knowing you now have some extra scratch to buy a copy of “Call of Duty: Black Ops” is thanks enough.