FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 6, 2014) -- Death and taxes are said by some to be the only two guarantees in life, and while Fort Rucker can't aid people on their quest for immortality, the installation does have a way for Soldiers and Family members to get their taxes done professionally -- for free.

The Fort Rucker Tax Center opened its phone lines for appointments Jan. 1 and began seeing patrons Jan. 3, offering free tax services to active-duty Soldiers, retirees and Family members. The center is open Mondays-Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through April 15 and is available by appointment only, and is designed to make the lives of military personnel a little easier by saving them a little money, said Tod Clayton, volunteer income tax assistant coordinator at the tax center.

People must have a valid military ID in order to take advantage of the services provided at the Tax Center, and Soldiers on Reserve status must be on Title-10 orders and bring their call-to-active duty orders in order to use the center.

"This is a free service and people need to take advantage of it," said Clayton. "The average return typically costs between $75-150 depending on the forms that they use. It can get costly, and they don't tell you that it costs extra to do the state return, and these days, everybody needs help saving a little money."

Both federal and state returns can be handled at the tax center at no charge, added the tax coordinator.

"People should use a professional when filing taxes because they may miss some credits or deductions that they might be entitled to," said Clayton. "The service here is free and we're all trained by the [Internal Revenue Service] in certain aspects that deal with military personnel, so that's another advantage that people will have."

When visiting the Tax Center, people should remember to bring all tax forms, including all valid military ID cards; Social Security cards; all W-2s and wage and earning statements; 1099-R for pensions and retirements; 1098 for interest statements regarding tuitions, student loans, mortgages, etc.; a copy of the previous year's return if available; power of attorney papers if available; 1099-G forms for gambling winnings, unemployment compensations, etc.; and 1099-MISC for payments received for non-employment compensation.

"Some people have gambling winnings or unemployment that they've received throughout the year, and those are things that need to be filed, and sometimes people don't realize that," said the tax coordinator. "If they're in doubt about something, just bring it to us and ask questions."

People should also bring their bank routing numbers as well as their account numbers if they wish to have their returns deposited directly into their bank accounts, which can be found on a check tied to the specific account they wish to use.

Although the tax center is an invaluable resource to people on the installation, the facility is limited in the services it can provide. The center can't provide services for businesses or more than one rental property, but most simple tax returns shouldn't be a problem, said Clayton.

"Every tax situation is different and we look at each individual tax situation separately," he said. "If people feel they can do it themselves that's fine, but there is no harm in coming by and having us take a look, especially since it's free."

Using a professional is a good way to keep from making simple mistakes on returns. Clayton said the most common mistake people make is entering the wrong Social Security number when filing.

"Most rejections come back because of incorrect Social Security numbers, so people need to pay attention to details," he said. "That's why we have them bring in all their information. We just want to verify that the person is claiming the correct number with the right name."

Not everyone is guaranteed a return, said Clayton, but filing with a professional can help ensure that people get the most out of their return or help owe less if they have to pay this year. Whether people owe or receive a refund, they need to make sure their taxes are filed by April 15 to avoid fines and penalties, he added.

"If you owe money to the government, you're going to owe them money whether you file on time or not," said Clayton. "Even if you can't afford to pay right away, file by April 15 to stop the clock."

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 255-2937 or 255-2938.