FORT KNOX, Ky. — The Internal Revenue Service announced March 23 that the 2019 tax season would be extended from April 15 to July 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the Fort Knox Tax Center has closed for the same reason.
According to Katherine Flowers, officer in charge of the tax center, they are not set up to provide tax preparation services of any kind to Soldiers and retirees, though one idea Staff Judge Advocate officials have considered involves remote services.
“We are discussing the possibility of being able to open up remote services, but that would require getting the Soldiers that had been tasked to us before being tasked back to us in some capacity, and we would need to issue computers and phone numbers to each of them,” said Flowers. “We don’t have that capability at the SJA office.
“We’re pretty sure also that all those Soldiers are doing something related to COVID-19 they can’t be pulled away from.”
The doors to this year’s tax center opened in the basement of Pike Hall Jan. 22 to some fanfare. Flowers and her team of tax preparing Soldiers expected to stay busy through April 15, processing roughly the same amount of returns that had been processed the year prior — nearly 4,000 for fellow Soldiers, families and retirees amounting to about $4.3 million in tax refunds and saving the community approximately $700,000 in preparation costs.
“When you take a look at families, Soldiers, our retiree population; that is a significant cost savings for people who are trying to continue to drive on with their lives,” said Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr., commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, at that time.
Fast-forward two months later, rapid spread of COVID-19 changed all that.
“We stopped scheduling appointments and stopped having taxpayers come in about the 18th or 19th of March,” said Flowers. “We still had people manning the tax center, and they were going to be continuing to do administrative tasks and getting us set up to do remote tax preparation.”
Flowers said changing the Health Protection Condition from Bravo to Charlie added an insurmountable obstacle to those plans.
“Once that announcement came out, we just shut it down completely and sent everybody home,” said Flowers. “Now, we’re telling people who have reached out to us asking what to do that any active duty, Reserve or Guard service member can use the MilTax program through Military OneSource. That is free, and it is online tax preparation.”
The MilTax program requires participants to do their own tax preparation, but Military OneSource offers tax consultants to answer any questions. Flowers reminds taxpayers that they also have the additional three months to file, which could be enough time for the pandemic to pass.
“The extension is there to make it a lot easier for people to get their taxes filed a lot later if we are able to reopen,” said Flowers. “We are also keeping our Facebook page updated in case we anticipate reopening.”
Flowers said they have retained the contact information of those who had scheduled to receive tax preparation services before the tax center closed and are planning to call them for rescheduling if needed, if they are given the green light to reopen in time.