JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
With tax season in full effect, members of Joint Base Charleston have been trying to file their tax returns as soon as possible.
The tax centers at both the Air Base and Weapons Station have supported JB Charleston members for many years through volunteers who provide advice and expertise to the entire Team Charleston.
Currently, there are only two volunteers at the air base tax center who help more than 2,000 people a year complete their taxes.
Tech. Sgt. Latoya Johnson-Mallory, 628th Air Base Wing legal office paralegal and tax center volunteer, shared her thoughts on the importance of providing this service.
"For active-duty E-4's and below, this may be their first job, and taxes are their responsibility now," said Johnson-Mallory. "We go over the tax return process and take time to go line-by-line and answer whatever questions they may have."
Airman 1st Class Kaitlin Fontenot, 628th Communications Squadron knowledge management technician, used the service and commented on how helpful the service was.
"I chose to go to the tax center because I wasn't familiar with how tax returns worked," said Fontenot. "I felt like the volunteers were very trustworthy and did what they could to make sure I was set for success. The tax center was very beneficial in helping me understand how tax returns work and they did my taxes for free!"
Back in 2000, when Johnson-Mallory was a brand new Airman stationed at Charleston Air Force Base, she used the tax center and now she is returning the favor.
"This is my second year volunteering at the tax center but I have also volunteered at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany for a few years as well," said Johnson-Mallory. If you're doing taxes for a while you start to see the same people, the same faces and you start to know their lives. It definitely goes beyond doing taxes at that point."
While it may be enjoyable to provide the services to base members, volunteers must have the skills needed to properly do tax returns. Those interested in volunteering must attend a week-long Internal Revenue Service training course as well as pass an exam.
According to Erin Dixon, 628th Air Base Wing chief of legal assistance, all volunteers must receive a certification before prepare any returns.
"The tax center requires at least two individuals to operate," said Dixon. "One to prepare the taxes and the other to quality review it. There are some challenges that come about because while there are many amazing benefits this service provides to our active-duty, retirees and dependents, about 2,000 people utilize the tax center every year.
The tax center is an all-volunteer force and, sometimes, we don't have enough volunteers to keep up with the volume."
At the Weapons Station tax center, recently graduated students from the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command volunteer their time while waiting for orders.
"They are what's made this program so successful in the past because it becomes their full-time duty," said Dixon. "The students got held up this year so they weren't able to graduate as early as they normally do. However, they will be available next week to start assisting us."
Currently the volunteers at the Weapons Station tax center can only assist NNPTC students and staff members. Other people will have to have their taxes done at the Air Base tax center.
In order to make the process flow faster and more efficiently, Dixon mentioned that it is never too late to assist the volunteers at the tax center.
"If anyone wants to volunteer, we can always use the help," said Dixon. "From greeting to assisting with phone calls, anything would immensely benefit us. It would be a great opportunity for people who like to socialize, to walk around and talk to people who are getting their taxes done."
To contact the tax center, call 963-1040, 963-5502 or 963-8297.