MIAMI, Fla. - A U.S. Army Garrison-Miami tax program that partners with the Internal Revenue Service has saved its customers $43,000 in tax preparation fees.

U.S. Southern Command leadership recently recognized the programAca,!a,,cs hardest working volunteer, Information Technician Second Class Lakeilah Dunbar with the Joint Service Commendation Medal in a ceremony at SOUTHCOM headquarters.

Aca,!A"The Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program assists military servicemembers with their taxes at bases all around the world at no cost. It does this by providing IRS-certified volunteers to make sure taxes are done thoroughly and accurately,Aca,!A? said Jay Fanning, senior stakeholder relationship task consultant for the Internal Revenue Service.

Just getting into the program is not easy, he said. It requires a minimum of 32 hours of training each year, followed by hands-on practice. Of the 130 million tax returns the IRS handles each year, nearly 3 million are processed by VITA members.

Eric Powers, USAG-Miami paralegal and tax center supervisor, praised Dunbar for her excellent work ethic. Aca,!A"Dunbar was my right hand with this program, she assisted with supervising and recruiting the volunteers, and she processed 250 of the more than 300 tax returns filed.

Dunbar will be attending the tax law course in Charlottesville, Va., which is required to train new volunteers.

Aca,!A"Jay has trained us the last two years, and has been impressed with Dunbar. This may lead to a career with the IRS down the line.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"I had customers come back and talk to me all the time, Soldiers that werenAca,!a,,ct even stationed here in SOUTHCOM,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"She would not let someone leave without us giving them an answer -- if she didnAca,!a,,ct know a particularly complex tax question, she would find out.Aca,!A?

Powers said that tax preparation is a benefit that pays off.
Aca,!A"We saved our customers about $43,000 in preparation fees,Aca,!A? he said, noting that to do a basic return costs about $125. Amended returns from multiple years it can cost from $300 to $500.

For the tax year coming up, Powers advises to keep good records.

Aca,!A"Look at your documentation, take a look at last yearAca,!a,,cs taxes and see what you claimed on your return, see what your refund was,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Then come talk to us about it.Aca,!A?

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16