MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- For the station tax assistance office, the past three years have yielded a remarkable increase in assistance proficiency. Year-round, station service members and retirees are given the opportunity to have their taxes prepared and filed cost free.
The services provided by the tax center saves service members and retirees thousands of dollars each year.
In 2002, there were 1,745 tax returns completed. Of those, there was a 59 percent accuracy rate and the center had 32 tax assistance trained personnel.
The following year, more than 200 additional returns were completed, the accuracy rate was increased to 99.91 percent and the number of trained personnel was decreased to 19.
As the 2004 tax season winds to a close, 2,235 returns have been completed to date, the accuracy rate has risen to 99.96 percent, which is the highest ever, and the number of trained personnel has remained at 19.
"Basically what we are doing here is getting more work done with less people," said Erlinda Knight, station income tax director. "Not only is this team taking care of more returns, but they are also doing it more accurately. We have had less errors, less rejects and less auditing. We have consistently made improvements on the quality of our work."
Knight has been a station income tax volunteer for 15 years and became the director three years ago. She said her experience as a volunteer has assisted her in developing the most effective plan for training and directing her assistants.
One of those assistants, Houston native Lance Cpl. Robert Settle, volunteer tax assistance aide, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, said the teamwork and training the volunteers receive enables them to work productively, completing a large amount of returns in a short time with a low error rate.
"I think volunteering here was definitely a perfect experience for financial training," said Settle. "The things that I have learned here, I will carry with me throughout my life."
In addition to teaching the volunteers how to process tax returns, Knight gave daily classes on information like budgeting, getting out of debt and controlling finances, said Settle.
Knight said that although the season is over, she expects to continue to complete additional returns for Marines and sailors returning from deployment.
This season, the tax center brought in a total of nearly $3 million in refunds for its patrons. It saved station personnel an average of $160. Station personnel would have paid $377,586 to have their returns filed elsewhere.
The station tax volunteers are able to save Marines that much money because they have researched military tax exemptions, said Knight. As a result of the research, the volunteers at the legal office are more likely to get a higher refund for their clients and are less likely to get audited.