Get your money back Offutt

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachelle Blake
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
For more than a decade, one of Team Offutt's finest has been saving tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Pamela Clark, 55th Wing Judge Advocate tax representative, and her posse of volunteers bring a unique complimentary service to the base year in and year out with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program. Last year they grossed more than $5 million in refunds.

"The tax center saved the military community $512,384 in preparation fees," Clark said. "We prepared 4,162 federal and state returns with a refund value of $5,451,334."

While it is a team effort, Clark has her fair share of faithful customers.

"I enjoy helping the military members receive the highest refund possible and teaching them about financial independence," Clark said. "I have worked with many of the clients for several years and it is very rewarding when they follow guidance from year to year and come back each year in a better financial standing." 

One such individual has been visiting Clark since the early 2000s.

"I started going to Pam back when I was a lieutenant," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Harley Barmore, 55th Operation Group standards and evaluations director of staff.  "She is a huge asset to my family and our long-term goals and is off-the-chart smart on even the latest and most complex tax laws.  She has assisted with every aspect of my tax situation to include a messy divorce, marriage to my wife, birth of both my kids, purchase of two houses, kids' education, and retirement allocation.  The cool thing is that she remembers it all almost better than I do."

Clark makes a special effort to familiarize herself with her clients and their individual situations.

"Pam knows me and my family better than any accountant I have ever had," Barmore said. "She understands where I have investments, how to organize positions to minimize my tax burden, where I want to be in the future, and even offers advice on how to allocate assets now to make that happen in the future.  She enjoys saving me and my family money as much as we do and she is flawless at her job." 

She also takes a huge interest in her volunteers.

"It is immensely rewarding to train the volunteers and watch as they have their 'got it' moments and to see them excited about how they are helping others," Clark said. "We begin recruiting volunteers for the upcoming tax season in late October through December and training is typically the first full week of January. The volunteers attend a four-day course of federal and state tax law and take a test showing proficiency in tax preparation to qualify as a preparer."

Not only are they prepared to handle federal taxes, they also help with state taxes.

"All the volunteers are trained on all 50 states because each state has various exemptions for military members; members and many paid preparers downtown may or may not be up to speed on military-unique issues causing the member to lose money," Clark said. "Each year the tax issues continue to change and are becoming more complex in how they are handled in tax law. The tax center strives to stay abreast of these issues so that the volunteers are well trained and the military community is well served. "

Clark also has slots for receptionists who only need 30 minutes of training in the legal office on how to answer the phone, scheduling appointments, and working with clients.

Clark also helps people during the off season.

"During the tax season which runs from the end of January through April 15, the tax center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.," Clark said. "When the tax season is over, I am available by appointment only by calling the legal office."

The services of the tax center are extensive and open to many.

"The tax center will prepare federal and state returns for the current and previous tax years," Clark said. "The tax center will answer tax questions, help with figuring withholding calculations, and assist with calls to the Internal Revenue Service and state revenue offices. We also help the members with getting tax documents that are missing or incorrect.

"We serve active duty military, dependents, retirees and Guard and Reserve members on Title 10 or 32 orders or coming back from deployment," Clark said. "Retired Guard and Reserve must be receiving retirement pay to be eligible for the service."

For some, their experience with Clark has changed their outlook on tax season.

"This is going to sound lame, but now I actually like paying my taxes; I used to hate it," Barmore said. "With Pam at our side, I don't dread the ordeal--- I look forward to it. We come back to her office after every year with a thank you card, flowers and some goodies just to show our appreciation.  Pam is an asset to this base and the community.  If I had to describe her in just four words, I would choose- 'smart, wise, precise, and invaluable.'  All complete understatements."