Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian B. Martinez

BREMERTON, Wash. – Sailors stationed aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) began filing 2014 income taxes using the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, Feb. 10.

VITA, available ashore and afloat, is a free service providing aid to Sailors who want help filing taxes. Volunteer assistants walk Sailors through the online filing process.

“For Sailors that have basic tax returns, VITA is a very quick and easy process,” said Lt. Scott Upright, Stennis’ VITA coordinator, from Cresco, Pa. “For more complex tax matters, our volunteer assistants can refer Sailors to either the base legal systems office or off base where they can get the level of help they need.”

Sailors who wish to take advantage of the program must bring several forms with them, including their W-2 pay statement, a bank account routing number so the funds can be direct deposited, official proof of dependents, and any forms regarding personal property or finances.

“Teaching Sailors how to file their taxes gives them one more tool in order to take control of their financial affairs,” said Chief Engineman Scott Heppenstall, a VITA volunteer assistant, from Seattle. “I have done my own taxes for years, so I wanted to volunteer this year and share that experience with them.”

VITA is particularly useful for Sailors with unique situations that may change the nature of their tax return, such as marriage, children, recently acquired property and retirement plans. These are all factors that can affect the amount returned and raise questions for first timers.

“This was my first time filing taxes jointly with my wife, but the volunteer assistants made sure to answer all my questions,” said Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Andrew Avila, from Lawrence, Ark. “They double checked every entry I made and ensured that the steps were followed correctly. This simplified the process and helped make filing my taxes easier.”

VITA services are available Monday through Friday in the ship’s library 0730 to 1130.

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