FORT LEE, Va. – Fort Lee’s Tax Assistance Center will not open its doors for the 2022 tax season.
The decision to discontinue operations was not a local one but made at the Department of the Army level because of resource concerns, said Col. Matthew A. Krause, Staff Judge Advocate, CASCOM.
The mission of the installation’s Office of the Staff Judge Advocate is to provide commanders with legal advice. It also has a legal assistance office that helps Soldiers with individual legal problems.
“Due to increasing operational demands – shortages of personnel – the JAG Corps started to take a closer look at some of those activities that don’t involve the practice of law,” he said. “The Tax Assistance Center is one of them. It doesn’t involve the practice of law or giving legal advice.”
The OSJA provided tax filing as an added service to the community.
The office will, however, continue to be involved in the legal aspect of taxes, Krause said.
“If a Soldier runs into tax trouble with the IRS, they can come here and get individual legal advice,” he added.
Furthermore, the legal assistance office will still offer tax filing to surviving families of fallen Soldiers, a service long associated with its mission, Krause said.
Aware of the local sensitivities surrounding the decision to close the facility, he acknowledged many will be inconvenienced.
“Military retirees will be the population most impacted by the decision,” he said, “and in our area, we do have a sizable retiree presence – due to our proximity to so many other installations, good weather, etc. So, I think it will affect retirees, especially those not entirely comfortable with technology.”
Community members needing assistance for the upcoming tax season have several options remaining.
• Many military-affiliated individuals can file for free through the Military OneSource website at www.militaryonesource.mil. This includes retirees who have been separated less than one year.
• Others, depending on status and how they plan to file, can file for free through the Internal Revenue Service website at www.irs.gov.
• Hands-on help is also available. The IRS offers free tax assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. They are available at many locations throughout the community. To locate the nearest VITA site, visit www.irs.gov/indiduals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-qualifying-taxpayers or call 800-906-9887.
• Additionally, the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide Program can assist those with low to moderate incomes, giving priority to seniors. More information, visit www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/.
• Help is also available through the local commissioners of revenue or directors of finance.
Last year, the Fort Lee TAC processed 600 federal returns worth $1,052,339 in refunds. Taxpayers saved $129,754 in preparation fees.
Fort Lee’s TAC began operations in 1988. It has been traditionally staffed with a judge advocate serving as officer in charge, along with a group of long-time civilian volunteers and borrowed military manpower serving as tax preparers.
As a side note, the Army active-duty strength in 1988 was around 770,000 Soldiers. Comparatively, the Army has roughly 475,000 on the rolls today and recently underwent one of its most difficult recruiting years.