FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Tax season is here again, which means some will be looking for help in preparing their income tax forms.

Soldiers and Family members searching for such assistance can find it for free at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate in Bldg. 5700, according to Tod Clayton, OSJA paralegal, legal assistant.

"We offer free tax preparation for servicemembers, retirees and their Family members through an Internal Revenue Service program called Volunteer Tax Assistant," Clayton said. "In a nutshell, we offer basic tax preparation. We don't get into the complexities of income tax returns. We also don't do any business-type taxes in our office. Only households and personal forms."

The by-appointment only service is offered starting Jan. 31 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but people can begin making appointments Jan. 26.

OSJA has offered the service for the last five years and Clayton said it's been well-received by those on post.

"Everybody likes it," he said. "We usually have about 1,500 Soldiers and Family members who come in."

Clayton said, since Soldiers get their W2 forms usually in the third week of January, Clayton tries to have everything ready by Jan. 18. However, the usual opening date was pushed back to the last week of January.

This year, Clayton offers a new service to those who wish to file their taxes online.

"We are offering electronic filing of taxes, which can get their money back to them within 10 days," he said. "I've even seen some people get their money as quickly as seven days."

Clayton acknowledged there are plenty of do-it-yourself tax programs out there for people who wish to file their taxes online, but only those who know how to put their tax forms together should attempt to file that way.

"On average, a person could possibly do their taxes on their own through online preparation," he said. "If they feel comfortable using (one of those programs), go ahead. They're convenient and, sometimes, free."

However, some people still need help filling out forms and Clayton, along with his assistant Harris Whitaker, OSJA legal clerk are there to help. Whitaker has 15 years of experience helping people file their taxes.

"I've worked with Clayton since we started offering aid here," Whitaker said.

Whitaker said he usually sees people make a variety of mistakes in their efforts to put their taxes together themselves, but that's why he and Clayton offer the service.

"People usually make little mistakes, but we're all human and that can happen," he added. "The main reason people should use this service is because it's free and we do everything by the book."

For more information, call 255-3482. To schedule an appointment after Wednesday, call 255-2937 or 255-2938.