The Fort Hood Tax Center will start preparing 2012 tax returns Jan. 22 and continue until taxes are due April 15.

The tax center provides free tax filing and assistance for 2012 and 2011 tax returns to Defense Department ID cardholders. This includes active-duty service members, their families and retirees.

To ensure tax returns can be prepared, taxpayers must arrive at the tax center with all the required documents, to include the prior year’s tax return if available; all income forms (W-2 and 1099) from the appropriate tax year; records of child care expenses and provider information; power of attorney for unavailable spouse; and Social Security cards for each family member on the return. Failure to come prepared will require another trip at another time.

Powers of attorney presented on behalf of an unavailable spouse must specifically state for income tax and list the exact tax year to be filed (a date range including the current year is not sufficient) to be valid for taxes purposes. Powers of attorney may be obtained at the legal assistance office.

Many commercial tax preparers appeal to soldiers because they promise money the same day, but these services are not free. Even if the preparers claim not to charge a fee, the money they give you is actually a loan and, therefore, it still costs you money. You can get cash right away, because you give the preparers part of your tax refund.

Every year, commercial tax preparers make nearly $1 billion in fees from these loans. The Defense Department has said that refund anticipation loans are “the second most prevalent high-cost loan used by service members.” The 36 percent annual percentage rate limit on the total amount of interest that may be charged to military members and their dependents does not include the cost of tax preparation.

At the Fort Hood Tax Center, to set up the direct deposit of your refund, bring a check for the appropriate account. For those who elect electronic deposit, as long as the IRS accepts the return, refunds can be deposited in 10 to 14 days.

Last year, the tax center assisted with the filing of more than 7,800 state and federal returns, resulting in refunds of more than $18 million, and saving Fort Hood taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million in preparation fees.

Over the past two months 40 soldiers from every major command and six civilians have been trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service to prepare tax returns.

Taxpayers who are eligible to file a 1040EZ have the option of dropping off their tax documents and coming back two duty days later to sign for their return.

Otherwise the taxpayer will sign in at the front desk and fill out two questionnaires. Once completed, the forms will be reviewed by a screener to make sure the taxpayer has all the required documents. After that, the taxpayer will sit down with a tax preparer to complete the return. Before the return is e-filed, there will be two quality reviews.

The tax center operates under the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and therefore limits the scope of the returns that can be prepared. The tax center cannot prepare returns that include three or more rental properties, the sale of rental property, schedule C returns, a home business, independent contractors/self-employment, more than 10 stock transactions, or the sale of stock or mutual funds where the basis is unknown. Most other returns can be filed at the tax center.

Those who need to file returns from 2010 and before will need to call (254) 288-5040 to schedule an appointment with the post tax coordinator’s office located in the III Corps Client Services Office, which will be moving from Building 4617, Room 106 to Building 13.

For more information, visit the Fort Hood Tax Center on Facebook or at The two questionnaires are available at the website and filling them out ahead of time can decrease wait time. In addition, representatives from the tax center are available to conduct tax briefings for family readiness groups and units; interested groups should email or call (254) 288-5036.

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