And tax time for all

By Ed Brock

Freshly retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven Johnson was at the Tax Center at Army Garrison Fort McPherson last week for the last time.

"I'm trying to figure out since I was deployed for eight months last year how this works out," said Johnson, who planned to retire this week.

The Tax Center actually opened officially on Monday, but last week the installation's tax officer Marcia Parker and her volunteers were helping members of the 3rd Army, like Johnson, since they may be deploying soon.

The soldiers come in full of questions about their qualifications for the Earned Income Credit and childcare.

"And the bottom line is, where's my refund?" Parker said. "A lot of them have so much going on that they want to take care of, this is one last thing they have to worry about."

So far about 100 soldiers have come to the Tax Center at its new location in Building 52, a refurbished boiler plant on Hardee Road inside the base. The service is free and efficient, Parker said, adding that last year they saved the military community over $300,000 after completing around 1,800 federal income tax returns.

"It's much, much better (than some private tax firms)," Parker said. "We have a lot of experience here. That helps."

The only limitation is that the center does not handle business tax returns.

"I've been coming here since I arrived (at Fort McPherson) in 1994," 45-year-old Johnson said, adding that he's been very satisfied with the service.

Naomi Prendergast is volunteering at the center for the first time this year.

"I had a friend she did it last year and she had a great time," Prendergast said. "And I need something to do" while her husband Col. Mike Prendergast is deployed.

She took a training course on Internal Revenue Service procedures, but Prendergast said the computer program used at the center does most of the work.

"You just have to make sure they have the right paperwork," Prendergast said.

Having worked at the Tax Center in Fort McPherson for five years, volunteer Diane Edwards said she started working with soldier's taxes when her husband was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1979.

"Some of the new tax laws are very advantageous to deployed soldiers," Edwards said.

For example, soldiers deployed in combat duties, who already are not taxed for the income they make from those duties, now also do not have to include that income in the qualifications for an earned income credit. That means more soldiers will now qualify for the credit, Edwards said.

Civilians will have some good news this year, too, said Jack Bruce with AAA Income Tax Service in Jonesboro.

The child tax credit has increased from $600 to $1,000 per child under 17, Bruce said. However, some people may have already received this year's $400 difference in July or August.

On the earned income credit, the eligibility limit for a couple with one child is now $29,666 and $33,692 for a couple with two or more children.

The maximum EIC credit for one child is $2,547 and for two children or more it's $4,204, Bruce said.

Exemptions for dependents are up this year from $3,000 to $3,050. The standard deductions for people filing non-itemized returns have also gone up, Bruce said.

For those filing as single it is $4,750, married filing jointly is $9,500 and head of household is $7,000.

Bruce said his company has electronic filing that results in a refund being mailed in 10 days or for the taxpayer who is more eager to spend their refund Bruce offers refund anticipation loans.

"If they want their money in two days we can get it for them," Bruce said.