JBB to open tax center to assist service members who elect to file taxes while deployed
Story and Photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — By law, deployed service members are exempt from filing taxes but the Joint Base Balad, Iraq, tax center is scheduled to open in mid-February, offering free assistance and service to those who want their refunds now.
"It's going to be a small tax center this year because everyone has the option to extend and file next year," said Sgt. Jon Swink, the battalion paralegal noncommissioned officer with the 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion and a Dayton, Ohio, native.
The deadline for filing a 2009 tax return for a qualifying service member is extended for 180 days after the last day the service member is in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, according the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing legal office.
Sgt. David Dawley, the legal assistance noncommissioned officer in charge with the 49th Transportation Battalion and the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) consolidated legal center, said service members do not have to file an extension with the Internal Revenue Service while they are deployed to a combat zone.
"A Soldier's extension is automatic," said Dawley, a Hastings, Mich., native.
Although many states allow the same extension as the federal government, each state has its own rules, according to the 332nd AEW.
Though it is not required, it can be beneficial for Soldiers to file while serving overseas as it tends to be simpler than filing two year's returns at once when they get home, Dawley said.
The tax center – located at building 8272, the 332nd AEW Financial Management Office – will focus its efforts on assisting junior enlisted service members, said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. J. Ashley Apple, the law office superintendant with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and a Greensboro, N.C., native.
Apple, who is coordinating the tax center, said the goal is to eliminate the need for service members to pay to file a simple tax return.
"Here at JBB, we will be able to generally support the less complicated tax returns," he said.
The tax center will be volunteer driven, using a mix of experienced tax filers and trained beginners to provide assistance to those in need, said Apple.
Swink said they are seeking volunteers for the program, looking for those who want to help others more than those with experience.
"We're looking for motivated people first," he said.
Apple said anyone interested in becoming a certified volunteer income tax assistant will need to undergo training through a roughly 40-hour online course, or by attending a seminar held by a civilian tax consultant.
The seminar is still being scheduled, but will require service members to be relieved from duty for four to five days to attend, he said.
The biggest hurdle facing service members who choose to file during their deployment is gathering the necessary documents, said Apple. He said gathering dividends, bank statements, mortgage information and student loan repayment information together can be complicated while overseas.
"It's also deciding whether or not to file," said Swink.
Apple said they will instruct most service members to either use the extension or, if they are married, use power of attorney to allow their spouses to file for them.
Service members can stop by the consolidated legal center to get assistance in providing a spouse with power of attorney, said Dawley. The legal center is the building on Pennsylvania Avenue that is painted like a castle.
Apple said interested volunteers should e-mail the tax center organization box at 332AEW.TaxCenter@blab.afcent.af.mil.
Volunteers will provide income tax preparation and filing assistance at a tax center at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, scheduled to open from February through April. Service members deployed to combat zones are not required to file taxes, but may choose to do so to receive their refunds or avoid filing two tax returns next year.
(U.S. Army photo illustration by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)