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Air Force 2nd Lt. Nikita Belikov of the 607th Combat Communications Squadron gets help with his federal taxes Wednesday from Senior Airman Michelle Vargo, a volunteer at the tax center on Osan Air Base, South Korea. Its scheduled close was Thursday night.
Air Force 2nd Lt. Nikita Belikov of the 607th Combat Communications Squadron gets help with his federal taxes Wednesday from Senior Airman Michelle Vargo, a volunteer at the tax center on Osan Air Base, South Korea. Its scheduled close was Thursday night. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
Air Force 2nd Lt. Nikita Belikov of the 607th Combat Communications Squadron gets help with his federal taxes Wednesday from Senior Airman Michelle Vargo, a volunteer at the tax center on Osan Air Base, South Korea. Its scheduled close was Thursday night.
Air Force 2nd Lt. Nikita Belikov of the 607th Combat Communications Squadron gets help with his federal taxes Wednesday from Senior Airman Michelle Vargo, a volunteer at the tax center on Osan Air Base, South Korea. Its scheduled close was Thursday night. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
Senior Airman Michelle Vargo, (seated, right), a volunteer at the tax center on Osan Air Base in South Korea, helps 2nd Lt. Nikita Belikov of the 607th Combat Communications Squadron, with a federal income tax matter Wednesday.
Senior Airman Michelle Vargo, (seated, right), a volunteer at the tax center on Osan Air Base in South Korea, helps 2nd Lt. Nikita Belikov of the 607th Combat Communications Squadron, with a federal income tax matter Wednesday. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
At the tax center on Osan Air Base in South Korea, Staff Sgt. Michelle Streeter, right, helps Airman 1st Class Louis Hudson with a tax-related matter Wednesday. Hudson was one of more than 1,400 customers who'd sought held with federal tax matters as of Wednesday.
At the tax center on Osan Air Base in South Korea, Staff Sgt. Michelle Streeter, right, helps Airman 1st Class Louis Hudson with a tax-related matter Wednesday. Hudson was one of more than 1,400 customers who'd sought held with federal tax matters as of Wednesday. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Airmen staffing the base tax center here planned to pack up their forms and make way for the movers Friday, ending the tax season after handling more than 1,400 customers and $1.7 million in expected refunds.

The center opened in February staffed with volunteers who provided free help in preparing federal income tax returns.

Most of the roughly 40 volunteers were active-duty airmen, four to six of whom would staff the center at a time.

Along with the desks, chairs, cabinets and computers, phones and other equipment, the staff was saying goodbye to stacks of 2003 federal tax forms: the 1040 X Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return; 2210 Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates, and Trusts; Schedule 1 (Form 1040A) Interest and Ordinary Dividends for Form 1040A Filers; Form 1040EZ Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents — and many more.

“We have provided electronic filings, we have had forms if they wanted to come in. … If they had done their own taxes and they wanted a second look or a review, they would come in here as well,” said Staff Sgt. Michelle Streeter, the center’s noncommissioned officer in charge.

As of Wednesday afternoon, one day before the April 15 filing deadline, the center had helped 1,432 customers. Officials expected that figure to reach about 1,500 by closing time at 8 p.m. Thursday, Streeter said.

Refunds due customers totaled $1,702,706, she said. The savings in tax preparation was estimated at $197,069.

The center was set up in vacant office space inside the 7th Air Force Headquarters building, Streeter said. The furniture was to be hauled away Friday morning and the space cleared.

At about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, just a handful of airmen were in the blue-carpeted center, seeking tax help. But just hours earlier, airmen had been lined up by the dozens. It was the same on Tuesday, Streeter said.

In fact, she said, the customer load almost doubled recently. “The crunch started to kick in after the 29th of March,” a Monday morning, she said. “The phones rang all morning long, people wanted to make appointments. … I would say from about the middle of last week … we were pretty much booked up.

“Back before the crunch,” the center might draw 35-50 customers a day and there even were slow days, Streeter said. “Some days, hardly anybody came in,” she added.

But on Tuesday, about 70 customers sought tax help; Wednesday produced a similar rush.

When Senior Airman Michelle Vargo arrived for her tax center shift Tuesday, for instance, she found that a surge in last-minute customers had taken all the chairs, even her own.

“Since it’s gotten closer to April 15, we see all the last-minute people coming in to do their taxes,” Vargo said Wednesday. “It’s gotten quite busy. … We had 40 extra walk-ins yesterday.”

But typing the right information into a computer wasn’t the only help customers got.

“I have to make sure they didn’t forget anything,” Vargo said, “because some people forget education expenses or, say, moving expenses — things like that they might not think they would need to have on their tax form.”

“It’s nice to see when I help people get a bigger return and they leave really happy and excited, and they start talking about what they’re going to do with their return,” said Vargo. “I’ll most likely volunteer again next year at my next base because my time here has been enjoyable.”

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