SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Of all the difficult situations Soldiers prepare for --combat, natural disasters, long deployments away from family -- perhaps the most under-appreciated is delivering bad news about a tax return.
The more than 30 Soldiers from various brigades and commands of the Army in Hawaii who staffed the Schofield Barracks Tax Center faced this hurdle, but also saved fellow Soldiers, family members and other military ID holders an estimated $377,874 in tax preparation fees by offering their services free of charge.
They declared their mission complete with a Tax Center closing ceremony, April 30, at the Schofield Barracks Post Conference Room.
But, before leaving, they shared experiences from the front lines of the tax field.
"Soldiers would bring in taxes done by professional tax preparers, and there would be errors that required amendments," recalled Sgt. David Kuhn, a volunteer tax preparer from the 311th Signal Brigade. "One couple, after the amendment, received an additional $9,000."
He said, at times, he found himself wishing Soldiers were more educated about filing their taxes, and feeling disappointed by the errors made by professional non-military tax preparers. But overall, he said, he had a positive experience helping his clients navigate a system that Albert Einstein described as "the hardest thing in the world to understand."
Filing taxes can be especially frustrating for service members, who may find themselves slogging through the differences between Army Regulation 608-99 support and alimony, tax-exempt combat-zone pay and various state income taxes.
For this reason, Capt. Eugenee Gray, officer in charge of the Tax Center, described her tax preparers as quick experts in a tax system that is convoluted at best, and who worked hard, day after day, demonstrating courage by holding their ground and delivering the hard truth, even, on occasion, to officers who outranked them. By doing so, they gained skills that went beyond their military occupational specialty, skills that would benefit them for years to come.
"They could have just called it a day, but they took the time to explain the returns to their clients," she said. "With today's ease of online tax preparation, this willingness to help is what set the Army's tax preparers apart."
-- Contact Info
Although the Schofield Barracks Tax Center has closed, those who need legal aid may contact the Staff Judge Advocate's Legal Assistance program at (808) 655-8607.
-- By the Numbers
The 2015 Schofield Barracks Tax Center logged the following stats:
•Clients served: 1,320.
•Federal returns filed: 1,320.
•State returns filed: 1,101.
•Total amount of tax refunds: $4,580,892.
-- Famous Quotes on Taxes
"Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is really quite as satisfying as an income tax refund." -- F. J. Raymond
"People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women." -- Unknown