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(Enlarge) Pfc. Emily Morrison of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group and Spc. Adrian Contee of the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade, both volunteer tax preparers at the Fort Meade Tax Center, cut the ribbon Monday at the center's grand opening. (Photo by Lisa R. Rhodes)

The Fort Meade Tax Center held its grand opening Monday morning in ample time for the beginning of tax season.

"This is such a great day for all of us," said Staff Judge Advocate Lt. Col. Elizabeth G. Marotta to a small gathering of the center's volunteer service members and civilians. "What a phenomenal service this is to the community."

The Tax Center, located on the first floor of the SJA facility at 4217 Roberts Ave., operates under the IRS Volunteer Information Tax Assistance Program. It provides free tax services to active-duty personnel, retirees and family members on and off the post.

The volunteer staff is made up of eight Soldiers, one Sailor and two civilians who are certified tax preparers. Volunteers are required to pass four tax courses, including advanced and military taxes.

Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas thanked staffers for their dedication and service.

"You're going to help a lot of people. ... As a garrison, that's what we're supposed to do," Thomas said. "But we can't do it all without volunteers stepping up to the plate."

The center officially opened Tuesday with more than 35 appointments. The staff helps eligible members of the Fort Meade community file personal tax returns, including the 1040 EZ, 1040 and 1040 A. The center does not provide services for business owners or people with large investments or stocks.

Last year, the center filed more than 1,000 federal returns and about 1,200 state returns. At the end of the tax season, the center saved clients more than $400,000 in tax preparation and filing fees. Clients also received more than $3 million in tax refunds.

Thomas said people come to the center for two reasons -- convenience and affordability. He said people who work on the post are often too busy to make an appointment off the installation, and in today's difficult economy people seek services that fit in their budget.

"We appreciate all your hard work," Marotta said. "It's really the volunteers that keep this project going."

The Tax Center is open by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., until April 15. To schedule an appointment, call 301-677-9762.

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