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1st Infantry Division legal assistance chief Capt. Melissa Halsey said Monday in Würzburg that most soldiers are eligible for tax refunds. As of about 3 p.m. Monday, each person who came in to the tax center to file had received a refund, she said.

1st Infantry Division legal assistance chief Capt. Melissa Halsey said Monday in Würzburg that most soldiers are eligible for tax refunds. As of about 3 p.m. Monday, each person who came in to the tax center to file had received a refund, she said. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

WüRZBURG, Germany — The 2005 tax season is upon us, and different parts of U.S. European Command are mobilizing to offer soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines the resources needed for a timely tax filing.

The opening of tax assistance centers varies by military branch and location.

On Monday, the 1st Infantry Division opened 10 tax offices at different garrisons in Germany, while other tax assistance offices will open this week or early next month at naval facilities in Naples and Sigonella, Italy.

The 1st Armored Division’s Wiesbaden Army Airfield office started taking tax forms on Friday, while the Lakenheath tax assistance office in England will open its doors on Wednesday.

Finally, in Rota, Spain, an office will open in the middle of February.

For the 1st ID, the goal is to make tax filing quick and easy, said Capt. Melissa Halsey, a division legal assistance chief who was working out of the Leighton Barracks office in Würzburg on Monday.

The assistance centers take walk-ins, and appointments will start next week, she said, adding that about 90 percent of the center’s clients have gotten refunds in the past. Monday was looking good, too.

“I believe today, every single person has gotten a refund” as of 3 p.m., Halsey said.

Filing early will ensure that refunds come sooner, she said, adding that most refunds take about 10 to 14 days to get to the taxpayer.

Clients need to bring in all W-2 forms, as well as a Social Security card, identification and a 1099 form when applicable, she said. If a client wants a refund to be directly deposited into a bank account, that information will be needed, too.

Unlike Americans back home, troops stationed in Europe automatically get a two-month extension from this year’s April 17 filing deadline, Halsey said.

And if a soldier was downrange in 2005, he or she would get a 180-day filing extension after leaving the war zone, Halsey said. On top of that, any enlisted soldier also gets another extension equal to the time spent downrange. So if a private was in Iraq for eight months, he or she would also get an eight-month extension.

Furthermore, she said, all enlisted soldiers’ pay and some officers’ pay are not taxed while in the combat zone.

With the 1st ID moving its headquarters back to the States this year, it’s not clear how many assistance centers the 1st ID will have next year, so this is a good time to file for any previous years that might have been missed, Halsey said. Filers can submit their taxes for the past three years and still get any refund coming to them.

The centers are staffed by people who can guide military personnel and their families through the bewildering world of the tax code, she said. Most people just need to bring in the relevant paperwork, and staff will take care of the rest.

“Here’s a good tip,” Halsey said. “You don’t need to know tax tips.”

Avoid headaches by getting started now

Here are seven easy ways to get a good jump on your taxes long before the April deadline:

1. Gather your records in advance. Make sure you have all the records you need, including W-2s and 1099s. Don’t forget to save a copy for your files.

2. Get the right forms. They’re available around the clock on the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.

3. Take your time. Don’t forget to leave room for a coffee break when filling out your tax return as rushing can mean making a mistake.

4. Double-check your math and verify all Social Security numbers. These are among the most common errors found on tax returns. Taking care will reduce your chance of hearing from the IRS and will speed up your refund.

5. Get the fastest refund. When you file early, you receive your refund faster. When you choose direct deposit, you receive your refund sooner than waiting for a check.

6. E-filing is easy. E-filing catches math problems, provides confirmation your return has been received and gives you a faster refund.

7. Don’t panic. If you have a problem or a question, remember the IRS is there to help. Try the IRS Web site or call the IRS customer service number at 1-800-829-1040.

Source: Internal Revenue Service


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