WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy's annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has officially launched. In anticipation of the kick-off of tax season Jan. 29, VITA tax centers fleet wide are opening their doors.
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.
VITA pairs those individuals and their families with trained volunteers and streamlined tax software, called 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, the Navy's VITA program manager at the Office of the Judge Advocate General 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," she added. "Self-service VITA taxes is the best way to go about doing that."
Run by the Internal Revenue Service, VITA is available to Sailors and other customers through Naval Legal Service Command. Customers can find their nearest VITA tax center via Military OneSource. They also have the option of doing their taxes online.
Those who have taken part in the program have been surprised at how quick and easy filing their own taxes can be.
"The process for filing taxes is fairly straightforward," said Kevin Carey, VITA volunteer. "The tax software uses an interview process, asking questions to fill out the tax forms, and a volunteer is always available to answer questions. For a simple return with just one or two W-2s a return can be completed in less than 30 minutes."
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 $261.
"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."
Tax preparers advise Sailors bring the following items to appointments at their VITA tax center:
* Valid identification for taxpayer/s
* Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
* Child care provider tax I.D. or Social Security Number and address
* 2016 adjusted gross income from last year's tax return (if you have a copy, VITA volunteers can show you where this amount is)
* IRS E-filing PIN (you can get one at irs.gov 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
For more information about VITA and tax preparation, read frequently asked questions at jag.navylive.dodlive.mil. Customers also are encouraged to visit their local Region Legal Service Office for additional legal assistance.
For more news from Navy Judge Advocate General, visit www.navy.mil/local/jag/.