VITA Program Discontinued at NAS Whiting Field

Published on February 18, 2013 with No Comments

Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) office will, unfortunately, no longer be counted among the more than 100 Navy centers worldwide geared to help Sailors and their families with their annual tax preparation.

The volunteer force necessary to run the office is no longer available due to manning cuts to the NAS Whiting Field staff.  The shortage of available personnel combined with the high-tempo requirements of aviation training restricted the ability to provide a consistent, quality product to the customers.  According to Bill Brock, the VITA coordinator for the past several years, it is a disappointing and unavoidable, reduction in services to the base team.

“The VITA program at NASWF has served thousands of active duty, dependents and retirees over the past 10 years.  Unfortunately, the un-intended consequence of personnel reductions is the elimination of the volunteer staff required to run this program,” he said.

Naval Air Station Pensacola’s VITA offices are willing to help, and their assistance team is available by calling (850) 452-5588.  There are four locations in the Pensacola military complex.  Please see the inset box for hours of operation.

Navywide, VITA is run through the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office, and the program helps maintain the Navy team’s legal readiness and quality of life.  The service is provided at no cost to the program patrons, and last year VITA helped save more than $2.2 million in tax preparation fees.  More than $20 million in tax refunds were generated by the roughly 37,000 federal and state tax returns prepared for VITA customers.  On average, a tax preparation company charges approximately $170 for their services, and many “no-cost” commercial services are in reality, high pressure sales pitches for “cost” services the company provides, according to the JAG website.

Locally, the program has saved military families more than $42,000 in preparation fees on roughly 320 tax returns totaling in excess of $480,000 in refunds.

Individuals who would like to have their taxes prepared at a VITA office are asked to bring valid photo identification; W-2 forms for all jobs held by family members; correct social security numbers and dates of birth for all family members; employer ID numbers for child care providers; bank and routing numbers; child care and education expense statements; any other tax forms received; and a copy of last year’s return.

Last year Regional Legal Services Offices’ (RLSO) tax centers began to shift to “self service” assistance to help teach service members how to prepare their own tax returns.  The idea was to help promote financial accountability and teach Sailors, or their families, an enduring life skill.  The concept is expanding, and now all four VITA offices at NAS Pensacola are self service programs.  The program enables customers to use the free tax filing software on computers established in Navy tax centers with the assistance of IRS-trained volunteers.  The returns are processed electronically and generally arrive in about two weeks.

“Our staffing has been reduced about 50 percent, and that’s why we moved to the self-help model,” said Legalman 1st Class Tiffany Garfield, the Pensacola area VITA coordinator.  “Many people have questions about their taxes, and that’s why VITA is here.  We have a dedicated staff here, and we are more than willing to help.”

All four offices are available to assist, but Garfield stresses that non-active duty personnel are likely to be best served by the Bldg. 624 office at the main base.  Questions should be addressed to that office by phone at 850-452-8594.

The tax filing deadline is April 15 this year, and VITA centers will be open through this date to assist customers.  If utilizing services at NAS Pensacola is not feasible, another alternative is to file taxes for free online through Military One Source at http://www.militaryonesource.mil/.  Military One Source is available to active and reserve service members, their spouses, and DoD civilians and their spouses.

To find the nearest VITA center, or for more information, go to the Navy JAG Corps Web site at http://www.jag.navy.mil/.

Posted in Military

No Comments

There are currently no comments on VITA Program Discontinued at NAS Whiting Field. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment