With the start of a new year, tax season is once again upon us.

Last year, the tax center prepared over 4,300 returns, resulting in an estimated $431,706 in tax preparation fee savings. As we complete the finishing touches on the tax center this year, I wanted to relay some essential tips to ensure that your tax preparation experience is as smooth as possible.

First, the IRS has eliminated the 1040EZ form, so there will be no drop-off option this year.

Second, spend time now gathering your important tax documents and creating a document file. This could include such documents as daycare receipts, proof of education expenses, charitable donation receipts and gambling receipts. Then, as W-2s, 1098s, and 1099s become available, add these to your filing system.

Collecting all of your wage and income documents is essential to successfully preparing your tax return. For Soldiers, this means a W-2 from Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which is available electronically through MyPay early January 2019. The W-2 is the document summarizing your wages for the year.

If you have a savings account that pays you interest, you will likely need a 1099-INT from your bank. Likewise, if you have a mutual fund or a stock brokerage account, you will need a 1099-DIV. If you sold real property last year, you will need a 1099-S to report that transaction. W-2s and 1099s are typically not available until late January.

It pays to submit a correct tax return. When preparing your taxes, not accounting for certain income (e.g. income from a second job or gambling winnings) could trigger the IRS to adjust or reject your tax return. Preparing your taxes once can be difficult enough; doing it twice can be even worse. An adjusted tax return can result in you having to pay penalties and interest that you would not otherwise have had to pay if the tax return was completed correctly the first time.

Third, take the time now to create checklists for yourself, such as listing out all jobs held, all sources of retirement payments, and all sources of interest or dividend payments. Then as W-2s and 1099s become available, you can match them up with your checklist to ensure you have all the necessary documents.

You can also use your previous year's tax return to create a checklist.

For example, a Form 1040 tax return and the other forms with a 1040 identify the sources of income based on the 1099s and W-2s. If you have not had changes in your sources of income, credits or deductions, last year's tax return can serve as a road map for the documents you will need this year.

Fourth, if you are married and filing a joint return, both adults must personally sign the joint tax return. If one person cannot sign, the other person signing needs a valid power of attorney to file the other person's tax return for that tax year. If you are having your taxes prepared by the Fort Knox Tax Center, the preparer will need to see the power of attorney. The power of attorney must list the tax years authorized, as well as be notarized. A power of attorney is available from the Fort Knox Legal Assistance Office, located in Pike Hall, Room 129.

You will also need social security cards for all family members on the tax return, including dependent children.

Lastly, if you are an active duty Service member or Family member (including Guard or Reserve, if on active duty orders for 30 days or more), or a retiree or family member, you are entitled to receive our services, subject to certain limitations. We cannot generate returns for the following:
• Business tax returns, including business use of home office
• A return for someone who is self-employed with a job that requires purchasing inventory
• Day trading of stocks or more than 10 transactions per year
• Multiple rental properties
• Members of the clergy
• Bankruptcy Debt Cancellation
• Certain retirement account distributions where the taxable amount is not calculated

The Tax Center, located in the basement of Pike Hall, Building 1310, at the corner of Knox Street and Third Avenue, will be open to all eligible customers beginning Jan. 22. Individuals can call (502) 624-0044 to schedule appointments beginning Jan. 16. We will have walk-in appointments from 11 a.m. to 6 p. m. on Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Additionally, appointments will be available Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Remember: Do yourself a favor by beginning the process now of gathering all your tax documents.