Fort Belvoir’s Legal Assistance Office will be unable to offer tax preparation for the 2020 tax season, according to Devry Gillens, the paralegal in charge of tax services in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate.
Gillens says a combination of factors, including a volunteer-only team, and the very small physical space available for tax preparation in the old Fort Belvoir schoolhouse has caused this decision.
“For the last 8 years, we serve with the volunteers we have, which are usually retired CPAs, and stay-at-home spouses,” Gillens said. “The demographic of our older volunteers puts
them at high risk to COVID-19, and our office capacity has less space than we normally have, and when you include social distancing and the thorough cleaning between each client visit, it was just not possible.
“This year we will not be preparing any taxes for clients,” Gillens explained. “The tax center this year will operate more as a help line, so people are able to call our office and request help for understanding some issues they may encounter while they prepare their taxes. They will call and set up a phone appointment for assistance on specific questions, but we will not be preparing any taxes this year.”
Gillens stressed that the office will continue to assist eligible clients with IRS letters, should they get audited, but said, “We just don’t have the resources or bandwidth to work within the COVID requirements. Our tax center is not funded by the government, and we are doing this solely with volunteers.”
He said Fort Belvoir’s capacity is different from operations at Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall, or Marine Corps Base Quantico, where they have dedicated staff for tax preparation services. As reported in the Belvoir Eagle, Military One Source offers free tax preparation services, and Gillen said that AARP will offer tax preparation services nearby at Sherwood Regional Library in Alexandria.
“There was a time when the Army used to give money to installation tax centers to hire one or two employees to do this, on top of the volunteers,” Gillen said. “When you don’t have additional resources, it makes it tough to provide the standard of resources our customers have become accustomed to.
“If you’re unsure about what software or service to use, our team has extensive tax knowledge, and they can offer guidance to help you.”
If you have questions about your taxes, you can set a phone appointment by calling the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at 703-805-2856, and use Option 4, and someone will return your call. You can also get free tax preparation with Military Onesource’s MilTax program at militaryonesource.mil/financial-legal/tax-resource-center/miltax-military-tax-services/. In-person, free tax services are available through AARP after Feb. 17 at aarpfoundation.org/taxaide or call 888-227-7669.