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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Uncle Sam may send bigger refund checks this year to servicemembers.

Starting this year, military housing and subsistence allowances won’t be counted as earned income, increasing the likelihood servicemembers can qualify for the earned income tax credit, said Capt. Matthew Shepherd, 2nd Infantry Division tax officer.

The EIC is a tax credit for people with earned income of less than $34,178, according to the IRS.

“It’s a substantial refund that will put a little more money in soldiers’ pockets this year,” Shepherd said. “The change was made with the military in mind.”

The credit is added to whatever refund a servicemember may receive, Shepherd said. The EIC could range from $200 to $2,000 depending on the number of dependents and total earned income, he said.

Tax rates will drop half a percentage point this year, part of the 2001 tax law, which reduced federal taxes. Shepherd said soldiers might not notice much difference in their refunds as the tax reduction plan is spread over 10 years.

Soldiers who spent time in combat zones will not pay taxes on the income earned while they were there, Shepherd said. Despite lobbying efforts, South Korea has not been designated a combat zone.

The 2nd Infantry Division’s tax office is on Camp Casey in Building T0044. It opens for business Tuesday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Soldiers don’t need an appointment to get help with federal and state tax returns, Shepherd said. Electronic filing is available for federal returns only, he said.

Senior enlisted personnel and officers who have more assets and more complicated tax returns should make an appointment, Shepherd said. The tax office phone number is 730-TAXX.

At Yongsan Garrison, the tax center is in Building 4214, behind the former Four Seasons outdoor store. Starting Tuesday, the office is to be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. It’s to be closed Sundays and Mondays.

People with simple tax returns — such as those who aren’t itemizing deductions or have no investment income or expense — can walk into the center without an appointment, said Capt. Young Park, Yongsan tax center officer in charge. They should arrive at least one hour before the center closes, he said.

People should bring their W-2 form plus any other forms or documents showing interest, retirement pension income or mortgage payments, Park said. The office cannot help if forms are missing, he said.

The phone number for the Yongsan tax center is 738-1716.

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