FORT POLK, La. — The Fort Polk Tax Center, located inside the Home of Heroes Soldier Recreation Center, 2165 Ninth St., hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 22 and is now ready to help the Fort Polk community complete their taxes for the 2020 tax season.To give Soldiers and Families an idea of the tax center’s success rate, the program saved its customers $300,000 in tax fees, helped garner $3 million in refunds and served 1,006 people during the 2019 tax season.Brig. Gen. David S. Doyle, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, offered remarks before helping the Fort Polk Tax Center staff cut the ribbon to open for business. Doyle said he is happy that Fort Polk can extend the capability of the Fort Polk Tax Center’s expertise to the Soldiers on the installation.“The Fort Polk community depends on this service because they want to make sure their taxes are done right, while being confident that they aren’t paying more than they have to,” he said.Doyle addressed the Soldier tax preparers, thanked them for their willingness to volunteer and told them they make a huge difference to the climate on the installation.“Even though you are a small group of people, you will have a profound impact. That’s why I wanted to come out today and why the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate fought to keep this service alive. The work that you are going to do is incredibly important. I want you to know that we are behind you.”Bernadine Lenahan, Soldier and Family Service chief, oversees the tax center to make sure things run smoothly.Lenahan said the tax center, which is fully confidential and free, works with the Internal Revenue Service to make sure the Soldiers that have volunteered to prepare taxes this year are properly trained.“These Soldiers take the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance course and pass multiple certifications to qualify as tax preparers,” she said.Lenahan said the tax center provides a vital service, and she is glad to see it running, especially since many installations are shuttering their programs. “Command has made this (tax center) possible because they understand the value and benefit, not only to active duty Soldiers, but to the retiree community off post,” she said.Capt. Jenekwa Harrison, Fort Polk Tax Center officer in charge, said the retiree population comes to the center year after year.To keep everyone safe, Harrison said the Tax Center operates by appointment only due to COVID-19, no more than four clients are permitted at a time in or around the tax center and all safety procedures, such as face masks, are implemented.Harrison gave a quick overview of the step-by-step process involved in preparing taxes at the center. She said when a customer arrives for an appointment, they will stop at the front desk where they are briefed on procedure and then sent to intake personnel, who will go through the client’s information and ensure the client has the necessary documents for their taxes.If everything is in order, the customer can leave for an hour or so while the intake personnel hands their tax information to the next available preparer. Harrison said once the taxes are done, the customer can come back and sign the forms, then they are sent to a reviewer, ensuring a second set of eyes reviews the taxes.“The tax forms then come to me. I will perform the last quality-control check and submit the forms to the IRS,” she said.As one of nine volunteer tax preparers, Spc. Devin Buterbaugh, 46th Engineer Battalion, said the IRS training wasn’t that difficult because they had advisors that helped them understand the tax concepts, rules and regulations.Buterbaugh said he liked the idea of being able to help people save money during these tough financial times.“I know as a young Soldier that I can sometimes have money issues, so I can relate to others in the same circumstance. That’s why I’m proud to be able to support others as a member of the Fort Polk tax center,” he said.Col. Ryan K. Roseberry, Fort Polk garrison commander, said the tax center provides an important benefit to the Fort Polk community.“Soldiers have to deal with a lot of stress. Knowing that their taxes are being properly taken care of can relieve them of a burden, especially when they still have other things, like training with their unit or being out in the field, to worry about,” he said.Harrison said she believes the tax center is a great way to support the military community.“This is service they deserve,” she said.If you would like to set up an appointment, call the tax center at 531-1040.