Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Advice for Junior Officers: VITA

When April of my first year of commissioned service rolled around, I was in prototype and didn't have a lot of free time. So I gathered my tax documents and dropped them off at a local tax place. For $30, they prepared my tax return and had it electronically filed for me.

Not long thereafter, the Navy started the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

VITA is a GOOD DEAL.

VITA relies on volunteers who receive some training on using tax filing software and then take your documents and prepare your tax return for you FREE OF CHARGE. Several years in a row, I used VITA to take care of my taxes, and I was never disappointed.

After we had been married a while and had a lot of stuff to itemize, my wife started doing our taxes on her computer. (Thank you Sweetie! You do a great job with our taxes and I appreciate it!)

My recommendations to you division officers and leading petty officers out there:
  1. VITA is a great resource for YOU! Take advantage of it!
  2. VITA is a great resource for YOUR SAILORS in your division. Get the word out! Find out the location and hours of your local VITA office and push the word out to your division at quarters. From my experience, it's usually at your base Navy Legal Service Office, but if it's not, the NLSO will be able to tell you where it is or who to contact.
  3. VITA is an great opportunity for you to volunteer for community service and help out your shipmates. Plus, it's a bullet to add on your fitrep or eval. It's one of those things for you to show initiative and a desire to take on more responsibility. If your command can support you being gone part time in tax season, you can get FREE training on tax filing software and then you can provide a service to your community by volunteering for VITA. Even if you could only do it one afternoon per week, you would still be contributing to the team effort and helping your shipmates out.
Here's this year's NAVADMIN message about the VITA program:
R 241821Z NOV 08
FM CNO WASHINGTON DC//N09//
TO NAVADMIN
INFO ZEN/CNO WASHINGTON DC//N09//
UNCLAS
NAVADMIN 334/08
MSGID/GENADMIN/CNO WASHINGTON DC/N09/NOV//
SUBJ/2009 VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX ASSISTANCE (VITA) ELECTRONIC
TAX/FILING
(ELF) POLICY AND PROGRAM GUIDANCE//
REF/A/MSG/CNO/302325Z OCT 07//
AMPN/REF A IS NAVADMIN 288/07//
POC/JULKA/LT/OJAG 16/JAG/TEL: (202)685-4641/DSN: 325//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/2009 VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX ASSISTANCE/
ELECTRONIC TAX
FILING POLICY AND PROGRAM GUIDANCE//
RMKS/1. THIS NAVADMIN PROVIDES VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX
ASSISTANCE (VITA)/ELECTRONIC TAX FILING (ELF)
POLICY AND
PROGRAM GUIDANCE. THIS MSG SUPERSEDES REF A.

2. DURING 2008, VOLUNTEERS WITH THE VITA/ELF PROGRAM FILED
MORE THAN
73,000 FEDERAL AND STATE TAX RETURNS, SAVING
SERVICE MEMBERS AND FAMILY
MEMBERS MORE THAN $9.1 MILLION
IN COMMERCIAL TAX PREPARATION FEES.
BASED ON THE RESOUNDING
SUCCESS OF VITA/ELF IN PAST YEARS, WE WILL ONCE
AGAIN
IMPLEMENT THE PROGRAM FOR 2009.

3. THE VITA/ELF PROGRAM IS A PROVEN WINNER THAT IMPROVES
MORALE AND
READINESS - AND KEEPS MONEY IN SAILORS' POCKETS -
BY SIGNIFICANTLY
REDUCING THE EFFORT AND COST INVOLVED IN
MEETING FEDERAL AND STATE TAX
OBLIGATIONS:
A. NO PREPARATION FEES. COMMERCIAL TAX PREPARERS MAY CHARGE
OVER $140
FOR THE AVERAGE ELECTRONICALLY FILED RETURN. VITA/
ELF VOLUNTEERS
PREPARE AND FILE TAX RETURNS AT NO COST TO
SAILORS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

B. FASTER REFUNDS. PAPER RETURNS MAY TAKE EIGHT OR MORE
WEEKS TO
PROCESS IN CONUS, AND EVEN LONGER IF SUBMITTED
OVERSEAS OR WHILE
DEPLOYED. BY USING VITA/ELF, REFUNDS ARE
DEPOSITED DIRECTLY INTO A
SAILOR'S BANK ACCOUNT AN AVERAGE
OF TWO WEEKS FROM THE DATE OF
TRANSMISSION, EVEN FROM
OVERSEAS AND AFLOAT COMMANDS. THESE RAPID
REFUNDS GREATLY
REDUCE THE NEED FOR ANY TYPE OF REFUND ANTICIPATION
LOANS,
WHICH STILL HAVE HIGH INTEREST RATES AND CHARGES EVEN IF IN

COMPLIANCE WITH DOD PREDATORY LENDING LIMITATIONS.
C. FEWER MISTAKES. VITA/ELF RETURNS ARE VERY ACCURATE - LESS
THAN A 1
PERCENT ERROR RATE COMPARED TO 15 PERCENT FOR PAPER
RETURNS.

4. PAST TAX SEASONS HAVE DEMONSTRATED THAT SUCCESS OF THE
VITA/ELF
PROGRAM IS PREDICATED ON SUPPORT FROM LOCAL
COMMANDS.
WHILE THE LOCAL
NAVAL LEGAL SERVICE OFFICE (NLSO),
STAFF JUDGE ADVOCATE, OR COMMAND TAX
REPRESENTATIVE WILL
MANAGE TAX ASSISTANCE CENTERS, LOCAL COMMANDS ARE
STRONGLY
ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE PERSONNEL, EQUIPMENT, AND FACILITIES.

WHEN LOCAL COMMANDS SUPPORT THE VITA/ELF PROGRAM, EVERYONE
BENEFITS.

5. SUFFICIENT MANPOWER IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS. THE SUPPORT OF
EVERY
COMMAND IS NECESSARY - TO INCLUDE SENDING SAILORS
TEMPORARY ADDITIONAL
DUTY (TAD) FOR THE 12-WEEK TAX SEASON OR
ALLOWING PERSONNEL TO WORK
PART-TIME AT TAX ASSISTANCE
CENTERS. PART-TIME SUPPORT IS ESPECIALLY
CRITICAL DURING
FEBRUARY, THE PEAK FILING TIME. THE GOAL IS TO PROVIDE
ONE
VOLUNTEER OR TAD TAX PREPARER PER 100 MEMBERS OF EACH COMMAND.
ONE
FULL-TIME TAD TAX PREPARER (TRAINED BY THE IRS AND/OR
VITA/ELF TAX
OFFICERS) CAN PROVIDE OVER $50,000 WORTH OF
SERVICES. INFORMATION
REGARDING REQUIRED TAX PREPARER TRAINING
OR ABOUT VOLUNTEERING CAN BE
OBTAINED BY CONTACTING THE LOCAL
NLSO OR THE OJAG POC, LT JULKA.

6. THE VITA/ELF PROGRAM IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. WITH YOUR
SUPPORT, WE
CAN CONTINUE THIS VALUABLE QUALITY OF LIFE BENEFIT
FOR OUR SAILORS AND
THEIR FAMILIES.
7. RELEASED BY ADMIRAL PATRICK M. WALSH, VICE CHIEF OF NAVAL
OPERATIONS.//
BT
#0000
NNNN

2 comments:

AllisonWonderland said...

As an employee of NFCU I was a VITA vollunteer, it was very rewarding. Other good resources for AD are Tax Slayer.com and HR Block Tax Cut through Military One Source!

divrchk said...

You can use H&R Block's Tax Cut for free by accessing it via the militaryonesource.com website.