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Alleviating Tax Season Woes

VITA program is here to help

Tax season can be a hectic time of year, and reading, not to mention understanding, all the different forms can be confusing. Many people will simply drop their paperwork on a professional's desk and pay a pile of cash to get the job done as quickly and painlessly as possible.


If you are one of those people, consider saving some money this tax season and learn a new skill in the process by taking advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

VITA is a free self-service program available to active duty and retired service members and their dependents, as well as deployed Department of Defense civilians. It pairs Sailors and their families with trained volunteers and streamlined tax software, MilTax, to get the job done right - and hopefully a refund in the bank within two weeks.

"It is truly Sailors helping Sailors," said Lt. Alexandra Marin, Navy VITA program manager at the Office of the Judge Advocate General Headquarters in Washington D.C. "It is an opportunity to work with a fellow Sailor on how to educate yourself on preparing your own taxes. It's a lifelong skill and starting out with a Sailor teaching you how to do this, so that the next year you can do it for yourself and help your family members and shipmates, that's critical. Self-service VITA taxes is the best way to go about doing that."

In fact, Sailors who have gone through the program have been surprised at how easy filing their own taxes can actually be.

"In previous years there was a build-up of paying someone else to do my taxes, when I noticed it was super simple," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class Philljhon Ventura, who is now a VITA volunteer at Naval Station Norfolk. "I got tired of paying someone else to do my taxes when I can do it myself. People should be able to do their own taxes."
Three photo collage of Sailors filing taxes with VITA.


There are other benefits of VITA as well. According to the National Society of Accountants, using this free service will save Sailors an average of $152 for returns without itemized deduction, and $273 on returns with itemized deductions. In fact, in tax year 2015, VITA volunteers with the program saved service members and dependents an estimated $500,000 in tax preparation fees, and provided more than $14 million in expedited tax refunds.

"First of all it's free, so you can save a few hundred dollars just by coming to a self-service VITA office," said Marin. "And it educates you on how to prepare your taxes on your own. So when your family and friends want to know how to do it, they can ask you and next year you can have your information saved in the software and you know how to do it yourself."

It will also give Sailors new perspectives when it comes to their own assets, which can improve personal financial management and goals.

"It actually lets you see it from the preparer's way of doing it," said Ventura. "Now you get a more in-depth look at your own finances."

This can allow taxpayers to optimize their future returns.

"Finances for me are kind of a big thing," said Ventura. "Knowing I helped someone financially brightens up my day."

Tax preparers advise Sailors bring the following items to their appointments:

* Valid identification for Taxpayer/s
* Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
* Child care provider tax I.D. or Social Security Number and Address
* 2015 Adjusted Gross Income from last year's tax return (if you have a copy, regional legal services office VITA volunteers can show you where this amount is)
* IRS E-filing PIN (you can get one at www.irs.gov/individuals/electronic-filing-pin-request) or call IRS at 866-704-7388
* Income data (W-2s)
* All end-year tax documents (1099s)
* Student loan payment information
* Receipts for child care payment
* Receipts for educational expenses

Run by the Internal Revenue Service, VITA is available to Sailors through the Naval Legal Service Command. Sailors can find their nearest VITA location via Military OneSource. They also have the option of doing their taxes online at www.militaryonesource.mil/financial-and-legal/taxes. For assistance, call 800-342-9647.
VITA Infographic


VITA Infographic
What Sailors Need to Know About VITA- The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

What is VITA?
The voluntary Income Tax assistance (VITA) program is a free alternative to commercial tax preparation services.

Commercial Tax Prep vs. VITA
Average cost to file with itemized deductions is $273
Average cost to file without itemized deductions is $152
Free to file through VITA

VITA is available to service members and their families, as well as eligible civilians.

Find a location:
Contact your CFS to find out if your base or ship has a VITA location or call 1-800-342-9647. Visit www.militaryonesource.mil for more information!

What to bring:
When you head to your local VITA location to get your taxes knocked out, make sure you don't forget these:
Photo ID and Social Security cards
Birthdays of all dependents
2015 tax returns, wage and earnings statements, interest and dividend statements, health coverage statements, total paid for deductible services (with tax IDs) your bank account and routing numbers and your spouse is filing jointly.