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Free preparation, filing offered by base tax office

Posted 1/6/2009   Updated 1/6/2009 Email story   Print story

    


by Richard Brock and Richard Ess
81st Training Wing


1/6/2009 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MISS -- Keesler's tax office is gearing up for another busy season in Room 229, Sablich Center. 

Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and working Fridays. 

According to the IRS, the average person spends more than $200 to have their taxes prepared and filed, but at the base tax office, staffed by a manager and trained volunteers, tax returns are prepared and filed free of charge. This service is primarily intended for military members of every service, their dependents and Keesler's retiree community, but is available to anyone with a Department of Defense identification card. 

Training of military and civilian employees as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance representatives takes place 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday in the Sablich Center Auditorium. The goal is to have at least one VITA representative in every unit on base. Most VITA representatives work from their own computers at their work stations, but some assist customers at the tax office. 

The Internal Revenue Service has requested that the base tax office highlight the Earned Income Tax Credit and has designated Jan. 30 as National EITC Awareness Day. This refundable tax credit is paid to people who work, but don't have a high income. It helps lift millions of workers above the poverty line, putting more than $43 billion in the hands of 22 million low to moderate income wage workers, according to the IRS. 

People don't have to have children to qualify for EITC, but families with one or more children receive a greater credit than a single worker without children. In 2008, the maximum for a family with two or more children is $4,824. Last year among those assisted at the Keesler tax office, the average client who was eligible for the credit received more than $1,500. 

To qualify, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if they didn't earn enough money to be obligated to file a tax return. 

Special rules apply to military members. If all of the non-taxed pay allowances a military member receives were included, such as the food and housing allowances, most military members wouldn't qualify for the credit. However, these non-taxed military allowances aren't counted as earned income. Additionally, military members who received non-taxable combat pay can choose to either include or exclude their combat pay when figuring the amount of the credit, whichever results in a higher credit. This makes it easier for military members to qualify. 

The EITC has no effect on certain welfare benefits. In most cases, EITC payments won't be used to determine eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, low-income housing or most Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments. 

If you qualify to claim EITC on your federal income tax return, you also may be eligible for a similar credit on your state or local income tax return. Although Mississippi doesn't offer an EITC, 22 other states, including Louisiana, do. 

For more information, call the tax office, 376-8141.



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