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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — With Tuesday’s opening of the Yongsan Garrison tax center, servicemembers and civilians throughout South Korea now have access to free tax help, officials say. And filers in each area likely will face different challenges.

The most common problems will affect married filers on solo tours. But other issues — such as official residencies, midyear transfers and combat zone tax incentives — could make tax time extra difficult.

In Area I, the particular challenge is preparing and filing joint returns for married soldiers on unaccompanied tours, said legal assistance officials. Ninety percent of 2nd Infantry Division soldiers here are on unaccompanied tours, the division said. That requires some advanced planning, officials said. Soldiers can sign joint tax returns only if they have a valid power of attorney allowing them to sign for their spouses or family members.

But it has to be a special power of attorney, granting them the ability to sign 2003 joint tax returns. This also can be accomplished with IRS Form 2848, officials said, which performs the same function.

For soldiers whose returns will be filed by spouses in the States, similar forms are necessary, but in reverse. The spouse must have power of attorney to sign for the soldier.

Soldiers who have nonresident spouses or dependents also need a special taxpayer identification number, or ITIN. Those forms can only be used for filing taxes and may be obtained from the IRS online through Form W7.

Area I soldiers seeking help can go through their unit tax advisers or visit legal assistance and tax centers on camps Red Cloud and Casey.

The Yongsan Garrison tax center will be open six days a week until just after the April 15 tax deadline, officials said. While walk-in appointments are welcome, particularly difficult tax returns should be done by appointment.

And with increasing computerization of the process, soldiers can get their pay records from the military’s myPay Web site and, by filing an electronic return, get a refund within seven to 10 days.

The challenge for officials in places such as areas III and IV will be getting assistance to smaller units at remote bases, tax officials said.

The Camp Humphreys tax center, for instance, opened Jan. 20 to serve all ID card holders. But for soldiers at Camp Long or Suwon Air Base, respectively, tax assistance will be available only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays.


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