Tax center: Airmen volunteer, provide free service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

"Malmstrom Tax center, this Sergeant Cobridge how can I help you?"

The tax-filing season is here, and for many, feelings of dread, stress and confusion follow suit. But year after year, a brave handful of Malmstrom Air Force Base Airmen make their way to the Grizzly Bend to prepare and file taxes for Airmen, retirees and dependents.

Open every weekday until April 15, the full-time center relies solely on Airmen to volunteer their time for two months every year.

"We're helping take care of families and young Airmen who don't make much money and helping them save a few bucks by providing this free service year after year," said Staff Sgt. Kimberly Cobridge, 341st Missile Wing legal office paralegal.

Although filing taxes at any age can be an overwhelming task, for junior enlisted Airmen filing for the first time, it can be an especially daunting experience, Corbridge said.

"For someone who is stressed out about getting their taxes done, I would tell them that yes, it can be a difficult and stressful process and there is a timeframe that they need to get it done by, but we're here to help them; we're here to walk them through it," Corbridge said. "Whether it's their first time or they're a retiree - just come in - we'll walk them through it. We'll explain why things are deducted and how they calculate the outcome. They don't necessarily have to know what they're doing on their own. There are people here to help and provide this free service."

To help make the filing process as smooth as possible, Airmen are interviewed upon arriving at the tax center. Airmen should bring proper tax documentation and expect appointments to take 20 minutes to one hour, but there are exceptions.

"The longest I've seen appointments last is two hours," Corbridge said. "Usually we schedule an hour, because that's usually a good guess of how much time one return will take. But there are sometimes little quirks and we try to fix it on the spot for them."

Although some may be reluctant to hand tax documents over to a stranger to file, all tax center volunteers are required to complete a week-long training class taught by an Internal Revenue Service representative and the legal office.

Filing hundreds of taxes may seem like a daunting task, but for Corbridge, years of experience working as a paralegal has taught her the significance of accuracy.

"As a paralegal, I started out working in military justice, so I wrote up Article 15s," she said. "Then I worked my way into courts. We do all the background work as far as the paperwork, setting up travel arrangements, trial counsel and defense council. We also set up the court room. They just moved me over to general law, which is mostly claims. I would say the majority of what we do is paperwork, which requires detailed, precise work."

"We're very thorough," Corbridge said. "We aim to give them an accurate account of what they'll be getting. We have different certification levels - basic, military, advanced and site coordinator - and there's always quality review being done on taxes before they are sent off to the IRS."

2nd Lt. Amy Bragg, 341st Comptroller Squadron deputy budget officer, is a returning volunteer at the Malmstrom tax center.

With a background in finance and a bachelor's degree in accounting, just as Bragg assists Airmen understand their federal tax statements, she also assists Airmen in helping them interpret their MyPay documents.

"I volunteer because I understand the frustration with paying for services I didn't fully understand," Bragg said. "In the tax center, we not only do your taxes, but we let you know how we did them and we explain the tax forms. I feel like I am helping people save money. Being a class A miser myself, I understand the issue with paying for someone to do something that I can do myself."

The tax center volunteers continue to aim to alleviate any unwanted stress by assisting Airmen during the tax-filing season.

"It makes me feel good to save people money," Corbridge said. "I know sometimes you get charged for just a form and I think it's a great service that we provide, especially for the military folks."

The tax center - located in the Grizzly Bend, Room 12 - is open Monday through Thursday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. There is also an evening time slot (for walk-ins only) on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. for Airmen unable to make it to the tax center during duty hours.

For more information, call the tax center at 731-2878.