Tax preparers go through learning curve
March 2, 2012
Personnel across Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall volunteered as income tax preparers on the installation. With two tax centers located in Bldgs. 29 and 406, preparers were required to take a one week training course at Fort Belvoir before being certified to prepare tax returns. They had to pass a series of Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance tests before being certified after finishing the Belvoir class.
Staff Sgt. Paul Tucker, a saxophonist for The U.S. Army Band's Ceremonial Band, was selected to be a tax preparer at the tax center in Bldg. 406.
"It was a big transition; the first thing we did was take day-long courses in tax law [consisting of a month of training, and full days of studying] It's a fascinating education I wouldn't have otherwise seen," said Tucker, who has only done his own taxes prior to working at the tax center. "I feel comfortable with tax law, or a lot more so than I did before.
"I think initially it was just a sudden transition from what I came into the Army for, to being over here,"
said Tucker. "It's ultimately been rewarding. I'm continuing to help people. I feel good about the service we provide here." Staff Sgt. Daniel Hood, a medic with the regimental aid station of the 529th Regimental Supply Company, was immediately selected as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Tax Center after a permanent change of station from Camp Zama, Japan.
As the NCOIC, Hood runs the day to day operations, manages personnel, and reviews tax returns that come through the Tax Center.
"The NCOIC and OIC attended a weeklong Tax Law Course at the U.S. Army [Judge Advocate General School in Charlottesville, Va. We then had a month of self study before beginning training our preparers. Our entire team then went to the IRS VITA course held at Fort Belvoir," said Hood.
Hood explained the Tax Center is a good learning experience for Soldiers because they get to know what kind of tax scenarios they could experience in the future.
"The biggest challenge is learning all the little rules and details about certain credits and deductions, all the little differences that vary between the tax-payers," said Spc. Brittney Hazel, a signal specialist of Headquarters and Headquarters Company where she works with lighting and sound for The Old Guard. "If the preparers encounter a tax problem or software issue, they can come to myself, Staff Sergeant Hood or the Civilian Coordinator Mr. John Ahern for assistance," explained Capt. Joseph DeFlorio, tax attorney.
DeFlorio works for the Military District of Washington Office of the Staff Judge Advocate as a legal assistance attorney. Being in charge of the tax center, DeFlorio is one of three quality reviewers that review all completed tax returns for any errors. He also makes sure the center is performing as efficiently and effectively as possible, while addressing a diverse array of client tax issues.
"It's very empowering once [the preparers] accumulate this knowledge base and skill set, you see them gain confidence each week advising our clients," said DeFlorio. "It's a skill that we will take with us for the rest of our lives, and will continue to use in personal wealth management and tax preparation for our friends and Family. I'm grateful to be given the opportunity to do this."
DeFlorio explained that his particular position is unique for the JAG Corps as they don't usually lead troops in the same capacity as other branch officers. This is a rare opportunity for him to be in a managerial leadership position as a new judge advocate.
"Staff Sergeant Hood, the NCOIC, is a fantastic example of NCO leadership. He excels at management of our junior enlisted Soldiers and always makes sure that our operation is the best it can be and that our Soldiers are taken care of," said DeFlorio
"It was a little daunting at first having that sort of immediate responsibility. Having Soldiers turn to me for guidance in a subject that is still new to me and having to make sure that not only was the office operating efficiently and effectively, while also providing a good example as a leader and as an officer was a welcome challenge, but one that I eagerly embraced," said DeFlorio who has only been in the Army for 13 months.
He explained that prior to training with the Soldiers, he had interviewed all of them. After choosing each tax preparer, they received a month's worth of training and hands-on tax activity before opening the center.
"We are all still learning, there is no way anyone will ever be a tax expert even with years of full time work or training," said DeFlorio.
The same can be said of the tax preparers in Bldg. 27, although, they aren't experts at tax code, they are learning as they go as well.
"There are so many rules, and they change it every year, so you have to be certified every year," explained Lance Cpl. Gustavo Bonilla, who works at Motor Transportation for the Marines on JBM-HH when not assigned to the tax center.
"Attention to detail, that's huge especially here with all the numbers," said Bonilla in regards to skills from Motor T that have helped in the center. "You really have to pay attention to [the taxes]; it could go from someone getting a thousand dollars to somebody owing a thousand dollars."
For some, the transition was seamless. Going from the main floor of Bldg. 29 to the basement was no transition at all for Sgt. Jamaal Garner, NCOIC of the tax center and adjutant office.
"It really doesn't differ, just down here I'm doing taxes, and up there, I deal with a lot of packages," said Garner. He explained that because of the small contingent of Marines on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, he knew everyone working at the tax center prior to the center forming.
Appointments can be made between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. for the Bldg. 406 tax center with the last walk-in appointment of the day at 3 p.m. Walk-ins are limited to 1040EZ returns only. Fridays are appointment only. To make an appointment, call 703-696-1040. You can also "Like" them on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ myertaxcenter.
The Bldg. 29 tax center hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call the tax center at 703-693-7001. Walk-ins are welcome, no appointment necessary. The tax center has limitations where reservists and tax payers with more than two rental property cannot be seen.