FORT POLK, La. — As a result of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, the Fort Polk Installation Tax Center — 2165 Ninth St., bldg 1455 — was shuttered not long after its grand opening.
With restrictions lifting, the center reopened June 1 and will pick up right where it left off by providing free income tax return preparation and filing for active duty personnel and their Family members, reservists on active duty for more than 90 days and military retirees through July 15, as the 2020 Internal Revenue Service extended the tax payment deadline.
The tax center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and will see clients by appointment only.
The center is run by Soldiers — IRS certified volunteers — who conduct free tax preparation for the Fort Polk community.
Capt. Michael Moore, Fort Polk Tax Center officer in charge, said the center’s tax preparers have gone through a thorough two-week training course with the Internal Revenue Service, but there is also an attorney on staff at the tax center to help them handle the more difficult tax forms.
As part of the tax center’s COVID-19 safety parameters, tax preparers and clients are required to wear masks during their appointment. In addition, clients can no longer wait for their taxes to be prepared while on site.
Moore said clients will also have to drop off their information and come back to finish the process.
“For safety reasons, instead of waiting at the center while preparers are working on their taxes, clients will have to come back to pick up their completed forms. On average, it takes 45 minutes to finish a client’s taxes. When they come back, they can review and sign their taxes and then we submit them,” he said.
To save time, Moore said after clients make their appointment, they should go online and print out form 13614-C, which they will need to fill out.
“They can Google the form, print it and fill it out in advance helping the process move along smoothly and quickly,” he said. “If they aren’t familiar with the Internet or don’t have access to a printer, the tax center also has copies of the form that clients can fill out when they arrive for their appointment.”
With a shortened tax season and fewer personnel, Moore said he still thinks his team will be able to process just as many tax forms as last year by July 15.
“We serve a lot of active duty Soldiers and retirees, many of whom waited for us to reopen to get their taxes done. We had a waiting list before we closed, and we called those folks first to get us started. There are still plenty of open time slots for people to call and make appointments,” he said. “I think it was a huge relief, especially for our retiree population, when we reopened. We closed so abruptly, and they didn’t know what to do because many of them may not be computer savvy like other filers who could do their taxes online.”
Pvt. Brandon Grigg, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said he’s also happy the tax center reopened.
“I feel like it’s a good opportunity for new Soldiers, such as myself, who don’t know a lot about doing their taxes. This way, I get to ask questions, learn more about the tax process and it’s free,” he said.