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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A plea is being put out to base communities at Yokosuka and Sasebo: If you have time to donate, please help your peers get through one of the year’s potentially toughest times — tax season.

Volunteers are needed more than ever for Yokosuka and Sasebo naval bases’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs as the legal office is strapped for manpower, said Capt. Jonathan Fink, Yokosuka’s Legal Office officer in charge.

“In the past, we had a full-time person devoted to the operation and management of VITA; this year, we’re relying on volunteers,” Fink said, adding that other demands on the legal office staff made him unable to spare someone for the VITA work.

The number of volunteers will determine the level of services VITA can offer this year, he said. No skills are required; the Internal Revenue Service will train interested people on the tax code and the software used to file income tax returns.

“Even if you don’t like computers, there are other jobs, like reception and intake, that we need people to do,” Fink said.

VITA is a free income tax filing service open to all stateside-hired status-of-forces-agreement and military personnel and is especially important in Japan, where off-base options are lacking, Fink said.

The service is well used, Lt. Cmdr. Dominic Jones said. Last year’s volunteers filled out more than 5,000 returns, garnered $6.7 million in refunds and saved SOFA personnel an estimated $680,000 in filing costs, he said.

“It’s free, electronic and quick,” Jones said. “All you do is bring in your paperwork and, in 30 minutes to an hour, your taxes are done. … Peace of mind.”

More than 40 volunteers are needed — there were 46 in 2006 — as the overseas tax season is longer than it is stateside. The tax center opens its doors after W-2 income statements come out in late January and stays open through June, as overseas employees who don’t owe money have until June 15 to file.

“We want a lot of volunteers because a good number allows people to take a break. We don’t want anyone to get burned out,” Chief Petty Officer Stacey Vines said.

It’s a good experience, promises Fink, especially for those who never have done a service job before.

The IRS training runs Jan. 8-11. Child-care vouchers will be provided to trainees, Vines said.

For information on volunteering at Yokosuka, e-mail Vines at Stacey.vines@fe.navy or phone Vines at DSN 243-8903.

To volunteer at Sasebo, contact Petty Officer 1st Class Vernice Williams at 252-3347-2116.

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