After a year in which the Army was challenged by civilian furloughs and a partial government shutdown, Fort Gordon commanders could have canceled funding for the post’s tax center.
Col. Scott Young, the post’s staff judge advocate, said Tuesday he was glad that senior leadership decided to keep the office running for a ninth consecutive year.
Last year, the tax center processed more than 2,400 returns for soldiers, family members and retirees and as a result, secured more than $4.9 million in refunds and provided customers an estimated savings of $480,000 in preparation fees.
“The amount of money saved coming here nearly totaled $500,000 that soldiers would have otherwise had to pay out of pocket to go to civilian services downtown,” Young said during the center’s opening ceremony Tuesday at the Courtyard on Brainard Avenue. “Money is tight and it’s important we do what we can to improve the lives of our soldiers.”
With the snip of a ribbon the tax center at Fort Gordon officially opened its doors at 9:30 a.m., with Capt. Marc Emond, a Citadel graduate and an alumnus of the Boston College School of Law, taking control of the 26-person operation. Young said the tax center ranks among the highest in the Army for quality returns.
The center currently employs 18 service members, two commanders and six civilian volunteers. Its hours of operation are Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“For our staff, one of the keys to success that we stress is the Army saying, ‘Slow is steady. Steady is fast,’” Emond said. “It sounds simple, but it can be difficult when someone is sitting in front of you to get all the information you need to file a return quickly and accurately. We don’t want to have to go back and correct mistakes.”
After graduating Boston College, Emond joined the ranks of the Army Judge Advocate and graduated from its officer basic course in May. Since then, he has worked as an assistant legal attorney.
He said an agent from the Internal Revenue Service visited the center Jan. 6-10 to provide staff pointers on customer service techniques and train them on the federal government’s individual tax guide for 2013. In the weeks since, he said the staff has practiced mock interviews and completed sample returns.
Sgt. Tim Hathaway enters his second term at the tax center.
He last prepared taxes for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, but said once he browsed the guide most of the rules came back to him.
“It’s always good to go back through the book,” he said. “We’re all in the same boat here and being able to find the answers you need is crucial.”
Hathaway told customers to bring their Social Security cards, W2s and any other tax forms or related bank statements.
Herbert Brayboy, a retired Army staff sergeant who lives in Hephzibah, had all such documents Tuesday and was the first customer to arrive for the center’s opening.
Brayboy served in the military from 1958 through 1979. He began compiling his tax documents in December.
“I always come the first day,” he said. “I like to get it done and out of the way and this place has always been the best for that. They get you in promptly and courteously and get your return filed right, while also saving you money. It’s great.”