FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- I am not sure if it's because of holiday bills rolling in or if it's because of the uncertain economy in general, but there seems to be a greater number of people very eager to get their tax refunds this year.

To accommodate Soldiers and family members seeking to file their returns, the Fort Jackson Installation Tax Center will open Monday at 9 a.m.

The Tax Center is located at 4330 Magruder Ave. The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Most tax filers would agree that regardless if a person anticipates a refund or thinks he or she might owe Uncle Sam some additional money, the filing process itself can be intimidating because of the fear of making mistakes on the returns.

One of the greatest benefits offered in the Fort Jackson community is the Fort Jackson Tax Center, which provides free tax-filing assistance for Soldiers, families and eligible retirees. By taking advantage of the service, you are already saving, because tax preparation is free. In other words, you are guaranteed to save on the preparation and filing fees, which last year averaged around $130 for a simple return completed by a commercial tax specialist.

In recent years, the tax preparation assistance has saved our military community more than $300,000 in tax preparation fees on average annually and has assisted in the preparation of more than 2,500 returns each year. Again this year, the office also will offer extended hours during the tax season as needed. With a new tax year again upon us, new tax laws and changes could affect how you file your returns.

The Tax Center's staff members can explain any new nuances better than I can, and it is in your best interest to take advantage of this offering. As for the quality of advice and assistance, consider that all preparers receive IRS certification and training.

All told, the service offered at the tax center is such a huge asset to the military community here, particularly during these tough financial times like we continue to experience. Every dollar that we can save is a dollar earned.

Keep in mind that April 15 is the tax-filing deadline, but this year the due date is April 18 because of a holiday in the District of Columbia. If you already foresee that you might need more time than that, consider that one of a taxpayer's options is to file for an extension. That paperwork can be completed at the tax center in a matter of minutes and allows the Soldier, family member or retiree until Oct. 15 to file.

However, an extension does not relieve or extend one's obligation of paying his or her taxes on time. A couple of important pre-preparation things to remember are:
A-A A+- You will need to schedule an appointment to have your taxes prepared by calling 751-5829.
A-A A+- Take supporting documents to the appointment (W-2's, 1099's, other tax documentation, etc.).
A-A A+- Valid military identification must be presented.
I commend the outstanding, record-setting cumulative effort put forth last tax season by our Soldiers and volunteers who staffed the Tax Center. I am confident that we will see another stellar effort from our team this year.
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