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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — They started arriving at 10 a.m., even though the doors didn’t open until noon, and sat patiently on the floor or in the stairwell while their babies slept in chairs next to them.

“I waited three or four hours last year,” said Petty Officer First Class Christian Osborn.

“It’s like ‘Fort Apache, the Bronx,’ some days,” said Capt. Chris Morin, head of the base Legal Services Office, referring to the 1981 film starring Paul Newman.

The crowd Wednesday was not gathered for a Valentine’s Day jewelry sale or to enter a contest for a free trip to Hawaii. They were in Building 39-A, waiting for the base tax office to open.

And although at first that may seem an odd place to find a crowd, it does make sense: Get your taxes done for free, have a little cake and await your giant refund.

Actually, there was no cake Wednesday. There was cake Tuesday, this year’s tax center opening, with a ribbon-cutting and the base commander stopping by.

But Osborn knows the giant refunds can materialize. “Last year, I got $5,000 back,” he said. “They do a good job.”

Osborn’s $5,000 was among $9.67 million in refunds resulting from the 8,048 federal returns the tax center helped file last year, according to Lt. Shane Johnson. As this year’s tax officer, Johnson oversees about 20 volunteers who’ve undergone training from the Internal Revenue Service; the base Legal Services office has been preparing for tax season since September.

Free preparation of sailors’ tax returns began about 10 years ago, Morin said, and although it’s not stated as part of legal services’ direct mission, “It’s a good deal for sailors,” Morin said.

Thousands of Yokosuka’s sailors will notice another good deal in this year’s returns: All pay earned while they were deployed in a combat zone is tax-free. That affects some 5,000 Kitty Hawk sailors alone, since they spent time in the Persian Gulf.

The tax center will be open six days a week through June 15. (Servicemembers serving overseas get an automatic two-month filing-deadline extension.) Those using the 1040EZ or 1040A forms will be seen on a walk-in basis. For more-complicated returns, call for an appointment at DSN 243-6465 or DSN 243-8901.

Tax center hours are:

• 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays• Noon to 7 p.m. Wednesdays• 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Migrated
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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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