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Tax Assistance program saves customers thousands

The 48th Fighter Wing Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs have saved 299 clients $37,997 in tax preparation fees and delivered $545,507 in federal and state tax returns as of July 24, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

The 48th Fighter Wing Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs have saved 299 clients $37,997 in tax preparation fees and delivered $545,507 in federal and state tax returns as of July 24, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- The 48th Fighter Wing Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs have saved 299 clients $37,997 in tax preparation fees and delivered $545,507 in federal and state tax returns as of July 24, 2020.

“A lot of other bases have decided to close down their programs, but our commander believes it’s a great service to support and provide to our community.” said Master Sgt. Melissa Holtzlander, NCO-In Charge of general law at 48th FW JA and site coordinator of the tax center.

According to the Internal Revenue Service official website, “VITA offers free basic tax return preparation to people who make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. In addition to VITA, the TCE offers free tax help, particularly for those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues.”
The IRS requires a quality review check by a superior for every return prepared at a VITA/TCE site prior to filing and submitting the return. Volunteers must certify their knowledge of the tax laws, and pass tax law exam to meet IRS standards.

“As a military spouse, I believed it was a great opportunity to help the community and get to know the people in our community,” said Marina Zapata, volunteer of the VITA program. “This was a great experience and I learned more than I ever expected.”

During the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tax center exercised quick-thinking to continuously provide services to customers through alternate methods of preparing tax returns.

“The tax services provided to me were 100% virtual, making it extremely convenient for me to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing and restrictions,” said Maj. Jennie Caval, client of the VITA tax program.

Though most volunteers have families and other duties to perform they were available to provide VITA assistance seven days a week while fulfilling their day-to-day responsibilities.

“Without the hard work our volunteers put in we wouldn’t have had such a successful program,” said Holtzlander. “