One Casualty of the Pentagon’s Renewed Focus on Readiness: Army Tax Prep Centers

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A soldier photocopies tax documents at the Fort Bliss Tax Center.
Pfc. Destiny Dasque, a 1st Armored Division soldier, works on some copies for a client at the Fort Bliss Tax Center on West Fort Bliss Feb. 21, 2019. (David Poe/U.S. Army)

Soldiers and their families will have fewer places to go for free tax help this season, Military.com has learned.

Last fiscal year, the Army ran about 60 tax centers, staffed by civilian temporary tax preparers, legal staff and volunteers, using tax preparation software provided by the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

But after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis redirected funding toward mission readiness and lethality in 2018, the service delisted tax centers as a mission-essential task of U.S. Army Installation Management Command, a U.S. Army Europe spokesman said via email last month.

The tax centers that are still open will have varying hours to be determined by local commanders, an IMCOM spokeswoman said.

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"Tax center operations are a local commander's program and, as such, local commanders make individual decisions on the size and scope of tax operations at each individual installation based on their own unique needs," she said. "For FY 2020, each individual installation has already made a plan that accommodates local needs."

Plans to completely phase out funding for the tax centers have not been finalized yet, she added.

In December, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, announced it would provide tax help only to the families of fallen troops. And U.S. Army Europe said it's closing all 11 of its tax centers effective immediately.

"Staffing a tax center with many Soldiers for the duration of the tax filing season is difficult to justify when tax preparation software programs and online filing have reduced the demand for tax preparation services," U.S. Army Europe Judge Advocate Col. Ian Iverson said in a statement.

Two years ago, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii closed its tax center, citing a similar problem.

Military OneSource offers service members a no-cost filing service and includes access to tax consultants and e-filing software. Those making less than $69,000 can file free through the IRS.

The IRS will grant troops on duty outside the U.S., including those deployed and those stationed out-of-country, an automatic two-month extension to file and pay any amount due without requesting an extension. However, there will be interest due on any taxes not paid by April 15.

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

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