Sgt. Michael Helmen, a volunteer tax filer at the Darmstadt, Germany, legal center, prepares Pfc. Sandra McKee’s taxes during the “taxapalooza” grand opening of the Darmstadt center.

Sgt. Michael Helmen, a volunteer tax filer at the Darmstadt, Germany, legal center, prepares Pfc. Sandra McKee’s taxes during the “taxapalooza” grand opening of the Darmstadt center. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

DARMSTADT, Germany — When Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell introduced most of the world to the word “lollapalooza” — a slang term meaning “something or someone striking or unusual” — he probably never thought it would evolve into tax returns.

But when the Darmstadt Tax Center held its grand opening Saturday, it dubbed the event a “taxapalooza.” And while it wasn’t very odd, it was fun.

“This is just like a concert. I’m having fun meeting people, giving out money. It’s like a parade,” joked Sgt. Michael Helmen, a tax adviser at the grand opening event as he prepared Pfc. Sandra McKee’s 2004 tax return.

McKee wasn’t as excited about the “taxapalooza” atmosphere, but she did like filing her taxes for free.

“I would never use another agency to file my taxes, unless I was rich,” said McKee, who is with the 596th Maintenance Company. “It goes pretty quickly and I’m satisfied with their service.”

Darmstadt is one of the first centers at overseas military installations to begin the tax season, which runs through June. Overseas military tax centers run past the April 15 deadline because there is an automatic extension for Americans living overseas to file their returns, according to tax center officials.

Tax specialists are civilian and military members paid or loaned to the tax center to assist troops, family members and most civilians working overseas to get their returns filed easily and quickly.

The servicemembers preparing the tax returns come from different units outside of the legal center and receive a week’s training in the Military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

“They get trained up and will be working at the tax center until June 30. They’re trained to handle many different types of returns,” said Capt. Scott Z. Hughes, a tax adviser in Darmstadt.

Cordelia Johnson, the International Affairs Liaison adviser for the Darmstadt Legal Center, said people should wait until they have all necessary paperwork before trying to file.

This includes: last year’s income tax return; Social Security card; W-2 forms; foreign income paperwork for spouses who work on the economy; any 1099 forms; mortgage interest statement; power of attorney; and any other documents received that have a note saying it is for tax purposes.

“People sometimes make the mistake of filing before they have all the necessary forms, which causes them to have to amend their return later,” Johnson said. “An example is a college loan paid for by the Army for which a W-2 is issued.

“In cases with foreign spouses or outside income, just come in and see a tax adviser. They will let you know exactly what you need before filing.”

Johnson said those with more complicated cases should make an appointment first.

Hughes also recommended telling preparers about college attendance and asking about the Earned Income Credit, which could mean higher refunds.

Darmstadt’s tax center, like many other military installation centers, will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday from, with some variations on Thursdays for sergeant’s time training. In Darmstadt’s case, this means doors stay open an hour longer.

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