FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- In today's economy, if you have the opportunity to save some money, you had better take advantage of it. I make this point because our Fort Jackson Tax Center will be opening soon. By using this service, you not only save tax preparation fees, but you might be shown ways to increase the amount of your refund or reduce the amount of tax that you must pay.

Now that the holiday bills are rolling in, I am sure that there are many people eager to get their tax refunds. Furthermore, most tax filers would agree that regardless whether a person anticipates a refund or thinks he or she might owe the government additional taxes, the filing process itself can be intimidating because of the fear of making mistakes on the returns.

To accommodate Fort Jackson Families seeking tax help, the Fort Jackson Tax Center will open its doors Monday. The tax center is located in Building 3390 on Magruder Avenue. The hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The tax center may also be open on Saturdays, depending on the assistance required.

The tax center is one of our most valued and popular programs. The Fort Jackson Tax Center in 2011 prepared more than 1,600 federal returns and 1,200 state returns for active duty Soldiers, Family members, retirees and qualified dependents resulting in more than $3 million in income tax refunds. This effort also resulted in the savings of over $560,000 in tax preparation fees. In other words, you are guaranteed to save on the preparation and filing fees, which might average around $130 for a simple return completed by a commercial tax specialist.

This year the office will, as in previous years, offer extended hours during the tax season as needed. Every year new tax laws affect how we file our returns. The tax center's staff members can explain these changes and will take the time to ensure that you understand the details with filing.

All preparers receive IRS certification and training, so you can count on the quality of advice and assistance. The service offered at the tax center a huge asset to the military community. Every dollar we can save is a dollar earned.

Keep in mind that April 15 is the normal tax-filing deadline, but this year the due date is April 17 because April 15 falls on Sunday and April 16 is a federal holiday. 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 October to file.

However, an extension does not relieve or extend one's obligation of paying his or her taxes on time.

A few important pre-preparation things to remember are:

-- To call the tax center at 751-5829 once it opens to see if you can be helped on a walk-in basis or need to schedule an appointment.

-- To take supporting documents to the appointment (W-2's, 1099's, other tax documentation, etc.) with you.

-- To present a valid military identification after arriving at the tax center.

Also, customers seeking tax assistance who have the new military ID card, which does not contain a full Social Security number, need to take their actual Social Security cards to the tax center. Those who still have old military ID cards that contain full Social Security numbers can continue to use them to file taxes.

Finally, I commend the outstanding, cumulative effort put forth last tax season by the tax center volunteers in 2011. So, let's do it again this year!

Army Strong! Victory Starts Here!