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Team VITA helps keep tax man at bay

Tech. Sgt. Michael McBride, a tax center volunteer from the 51st Munitions Squadron, discusses itemized tax deductions with Staff Sgt. Rockson Jeanlouis, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron. The tax center offers a variety of free services including electronic filing and preparation of federal income taxes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Candy Knight)

Tech. Sgt. Michael McBride, a tax center volunteer from the 51st Munitions Squadron, discusses itemized tax deductions with Staff Sgt. Rockson Jeanlouis, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron. The tax center offers a variety of free services including electronic filing and preparation of federal income taxes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Candy Knight)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Throughout history, there have been many battles between classic superheroes and evil villains; Superman versus Lex Luthor, Batman versus the Joker, Spiderman versus the Green Goblin.

Since 1955, American taxpayers have battled the seldom seen, but often talked-about, entity known as the Tax Man.

Fear not members of Team Osan, for the dedicated volunteers of the tax center are ready to assist you in your quest to file your federal tax return.

"The purpose of the tax center is to provide free tax preparation for Team Osan," said Capt. John Shin, tax center director. "To date, we have assisted more than 350 members successfully file their tax returns."

To ensure his 20-person Volunteer Income Tax Assistance team was well equipped for the upcoming battle, Captain Shin prepared his team using a four-day IRS training session.

During the training, they learned various tax laws, terminology and how to complete difficult tax returns such as a "schedule A."

"A schedule 'A' return is used to itemize all deductions like rental property and household expenses," said Tech. Sgt. David Baughman, tax center volunteer from the 51st Munitions Squadron. "For me, it is the most difficult part about being a volunteer. However, I always do my research to ensure I give my client a good, solid and correct tax return."

Armed with their new tax knowledge, the volunteers are ready to give their customers good and honest service.

In addition to customer satisfaction, helping to relieve some of their customers stress about taxes is another reason why most of the VITA team decided to volunteer.

"You see a lot of people come in stressing about their taxes and are unsure on what they need to do," said 1st Lt. Jose Perales, volunteer from the 51st Operations Support Squadron. "A lot of people are nervous that if they do their own taxes, they'll do them incorrectly and get audited. They get a big smile and let out a big sigh of relief when we do the work for them and show them that it wasn't as difficult as it seems."

And while the customers are learning that doing taxes isn't as hard as they thought, the volunteers are learning some important lessons as well.

"[Volunteering] has helped me improve my time-management and organizational skills," Lieutenant Perales said. "The mission always come first and with the high operations tempo Osan has, it can be a little difficult to find time to volunteer. But by managing my time effectively, I make sure I get all my work done back at the shop before going to the center."

So how do the volunteers feel after they've helped their fellow servicemembers battle the Tax Man?

"It's nice to know they appreciate what we do for them," Lieutenant Perales said. "It feels good to know you helped them out with something as important as taxes. It's a lot of fun talking to them and getting to know them as well."

Senior Airman Daniel Meehan, 51st Maintenance Squadron, added that is has been great being a member of Team VITA.

"I work in a place where I do not have any chance for customer service-type work," Airman Meehan, a Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory technician. "Getting a chance to help people do something they don't want to or can't do themselves is a great feeling."

With so many great feelings and good experiences to gain from volunteering, will these masterminds continue to help our heroes in their crusade against the formidable Tax Man?

"I'll definitely be a tax center volunteer next year," Airman Meehan said. "It is a great way to mix up the week and I love meeting new people, and having those same people walk out knowing that they were in good hands."

Although the volunteers are willing to assist in any way they can, they issue a vital caution to all superheroes.

"Don't delay filing your taxes," Captain Shin warns. "Come to the tax center, or use one of the other free tax services like MilitaryOneSource. Just get your taxes done ASAP!"

Located in Bldg. 788, Room 26, the tax center is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., and 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Individuals filing a 1040EZ return may walk in. Other services will be provided on an appointment basis. For more information, call 784-0888. The tax center will close its doors April 18.

In addition to the tax center, there are several options for military personnel to file their 2007 taxes for free. Members who prefer to do there own tax returns may e-file their taxes online using one of the following Web sites:

-- Militaryonesource.com: offers H&R Block TaxCut Basic Online.
-- Taxslayer.com: offers free e-filing for military personnel.
-- IRS Free File: available to taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $54,000 or less in 2007.