Sgt. Robert Guinn (right), UAV operator, 3rd BSTB, 25th ID, accepts an ARCOM from Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller, USAG-HI senior commander and commander, 25th ID, April 26, 2013.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- The Hawaii Army Tax Centers officially closed, April 26, with a ceremony commemorating their success and recognizing the 42 Soldiers who prepared thousands of tax returns and generated millions of dollars in refunds.

The ceremony took place at the post conference room.

Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller, senior commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, and commander, 25th Infantry Division, presented awards and personally thanked the HATC Soldiers.

Two tax centers, one each at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter, processed claims for service members, Department of Defense civilians, retirees and family members. This action was completed without charge to clients.

"This year our tax preparers served 3,287 clients, generating more than $9,111,801 in tax refunds," said Capt. Whitney Wiles, attorney, U.S. Army-Pacific and U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Consolidated Legal Center (CLC), which encompasses legal assistance, claims and the tax center. "More importantly, the tax center saved our military families more than $840,070 in preparation fees, which, without the tireless work of our tax preparers, would have been paid to commercial tax businesses."

The numbers will be revised after the late filings are included, Wiles added.

For the second year in a row, the 2012 tax filings were done by appointment, instead of walk-ins, saving customers both money and time. The average wait during the 2010 tax season was four hours.

Soldiers tasked to work at HATC don't do taxes as their daily military occupational specialty. Sgt. Robert Guinn, an unmanned aerial vehicle operator, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 25th ID, wound up at the tax center after the Soldier originally assigned became unavailable.

"He found out his wife was going to be due during the tax season, so I replaced him," said Guinn.

Most of the preparers worked half the season. Guinn ended up working the entire season as both a tax preparer and quality reviewer for about 250 clients, returning $212,169 in refunds. For his efforts, Guinn received an Army Commendation Medal.

"I came from the aviation world, so everything is by a checklist" said Guinn. "I just treated it like it was part of the aviation world and followed the checklist, and went through a step at a time."

Pfc. Jamar Lee, automated logistic specialist, Company A, 225th Bde. Support Bn., 2nd Stryker Bde. Combat Team, 25th ID, also found himself detailed to prepare taxes.

"I wasn't too happy about it at first, but I'm happy I learned, because I didn't know anything about taxes," said Lee, who received an Army Achievement Medal for serving more than 200 customers, resulting in $466,000 in refunds. "It's actually a skill I can take further in my career."

Due to budgetary reasons, this year's tax preparers had only about two weeks to learn what normally takes three months.

"I really can't say enough about these guys and gals, because we take them out of their MOS, with no prior training, and we basically gave them two-and-a-half weeks to certify on beginning, intermediate and advanced military IRS tax preparation," said Maj. Lynn Bruckelmeyer, chief of client services, CLC. "They did it during their duty days and on their off time to make sure they were 100 percent certified by the time that we opened at the end of January, and that is such a hard, hard feat."

HATC clients expressed their appreciation in more than 2,000 positive Interactive Customer Evaluations.

Although HATC officially closed for 2012, redeploying Soldiers can still get their taxes done. Updates will be posted in News Briefs as they're available.

Page last updated Fri May 3rd, 2013 at 19:36