Thousands of service members across North Carolina breathe easier during tax season thanks to Adopt-A-Base, the signature pro bono program of the North Carolina Bar Association Tax Section. The program allows volunteer attorneys to train tax preparers via the Military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a free tax service available to the military.

Tax attorneys offer time and expertise by providing tax law instruction to military tax preparers. Volunteer Mike Wenig, a tax attorney with Tuggle Duggins in Greensboro, recruited his firm colleague Vaughn Ramsey to serve as an Adopt-A-Base volunteer at Fort Bragg last year. (Watch a video of them in action here.) Ramsey was back again this year, and plans to return.

“I think the Adopt-A-Base program is important because it is a way of showing support for our troops. And, to me, the Adopt-A-Base program is the best pro bono I’ve ever done,” Ramsey said.

In 2017 at Fort Bragg alone, Military VITA filed 19,663 returns, saved military families more than $5 million in tax preparation fees and helped them receive $28.4 million in refunds, according to Terry Spearman, Tax Site Coordinator.

Adopt-A-Base draws repeat volunteers, including Helen Herbert, NCBA Tax Section Pro Bono Committee Chair.

“It is hands down the most rewarding experience of my career,” she said. “I look forward to it every year.”

Wells Hall, a long-time Military VITA instructor and partner at Nelson Mullins, received honors from the American Bar Association for his work in promoting the program nationally. He said much depends on accurate tax preparation for the military, which is more specialized than tax prep for civilians.

“Income tax is calculated differently when a person receives combat pay or is relocated outside of the U.S.,” Hall said. “These are tax-related issues that don’t come up with civilian income tax returns but are very important when filing a tax return for military personnel.”

This year 16 attorneys volunteered for the Adopt-A-Base program at military installations across the state. Spearman hopes that number will grow, “They are tax professionals, they do this every day … without them, this would not happen.”

The North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment supports NCBA Section and Division pro bono projects like Adopt-A-Base. Make your Endowment gift today.