Filing your income taxes can be confusing enough, but special tax rules, exclusions, extensions and deployment can make tax season even more difficult for military members and their families. Fortunately, free tax assistance is available both online and on your installation.
- Free File—If your family's adjusted gross income is $72,000 or less, you may be able to use the IRS's Free File program. The service is a partnership between the IRS and a group of private-sector tax software companies. Each company has its own eligibility requirements, and not all taxpayers will qualify for all programs. Also, not all companies will help you file your state taxes, and you may have to pay for the extra service.
- Military One Source—Military One Source also provides free access to tax software to help you file your federal and state tax returns. The software has even been customized for military members and their families. Free tax help and advice will also be offered by phone.
- CG SUPRT—CG SUPRT offers free online tax filing through H&R Block online for Coast Guard service members and families. You must go through the CG SUPRT website in order for your online tax filing to be free.
Both online services will let you itemize deductions.
If you'd rather get face-to-face tax help, then visit your installation's tax center. Service members and their families can receive free federal income tax preparation, assistance and advice from civilian and military volunteers trained to address military-specific tax issues. Some offices may also be able to help you file state taxes. To find your tax center, call your legal office or the installation operator. Information may also be posted on your base website or in the installation's directory or newspaper.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is coordinated through the Armed Forces Tax Council and offered on military installations worldwide. Most service members can file their returns electronically and have their refunds direct-deposited in as little as 10 days.
Walk-ins may be available, but you may have to call for an appointment at many locations.
Free VITA services are also available in communities across the United States. But to qualify for free services at these civilian locations, your combined income must be less than $57,000. To find the civilian VITA location nearest you, call (800) 906-9887 or consult this list of VITA sites.
Items to bring with you
If you choose to visit your installation tax center or a VITA office off-base, here's what the IRS says you must have:
- Proof of identification.
- Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration.
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents.
- Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN.
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return.
- Wage and earning statements (IRS Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R) from all employers.
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (Form 1099).
- A copy of last year's federal and state returns if available.
- Proof of bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit, such as a blank check.
- The total amount paid for daycare and the daycare provider's tax identifying number (the provider's Social Security number or the provider's business Employer Identification Number).
If you want to electronically file a joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the necessary forms or you must have a power of attorney that permits the filing spouse to submit the return. There is a special exception when one spouse is serving in a combat zone. The filing spouse can simply provide a written statement that his or her spouse is serving in a combat zone and is unable to sign.