US Army Europe tax centers reduce assistance for 2019
By AARON KNOWLES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2018
WIESBADEN, Germany — Due to cutbacks, U.S. Army Europe tax centers will limit assistance mostly to servicemembers that fall below a certain rank and income level during the 2019 tax season, Army officials said.
“The program is designed to help soldiers and families that need these services most,” said Maj. Shawn Atkins, USAREUR deputy of military and civil law. “Generally speaking, this equates to E-6 and below, and other eligible filers making less than $54,000.”
In years past, USAREUR had additional resources and could assist those with a higher income and more complex returns, USAREUR spokeswoman Beth Clemons said Friday. “With the resources reduced in 2019, U.S. Army Europe has had to take a hard look at those that need the services most and that we are required to support by regulation.”
In accordance with Army regulations and the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, tax centers must offer “free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking who need assistance in preparing their own returns,” Clemons said.
USAREUR tax centers will not assist individuals with tax returns considered complex, Clemons said. That includes taxpayers with a Schedule C profit or loss from a business, or those who sold stocks and other equities under Schedule D.
It also leaves out anyone with more than one residential rental property, or more than five capital assets transactions. Those with foreign-earned income are also affected, Clemons said.
So far, the Army is the only service to announce reduced tax assistance in Europe.
The Navy is planning no changes in services during the 2019 tax season, said Navy Lt. Tim Pietrack, a spokesman for Navy Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
All active duty and retired servicemembers and their dependents, as well as deployed Defense Department civilians, are eligible to use Navy tax centers, he said.
Trained IRS volunteers staff the command’s self-service tax centers, he said, adding that they’re available to assist with online tax preparations.
At the largest Air Force base in Europe, no changes in tax services are planned either, said Kilian Bluemlein, a spokesman for the 86th Airlift Wing.
The Air Force at Ramstein opens its tax center to all DOD ID cardholders, regardless of service, rank or income.
“We do not anticipate any tax services (being) curtailed, reduced or minimized,” Bluemlein said Friday.
Ramstein, which runs its tax center through its base legal office, relies on volunteers for staffing. But the legal office also funds two temporary positions to assist with tax returns, Bluemlein said.
More complex tax returns may take additional time, Bluemlein said.
Officials said they are still seeking volunteers to assist in base tax centers. Naval Support Activity Naples offers free IRS tax training Jan. 29-30. Similar training is scheduled at Ramstein from Jan. 7-11.
“We’re in high need of volunteers,” Bluemlein said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Jennifer Svan contributed to this report.