Uncle Sam expects you to file your taxes even if you or your service member is deployed. But it’s easier than you think to file these days. The Internal Revenue Service recognizes that service members and their families often face special circumstances and has made the annual-tax-filing event easier for you.
If you are a service member or filing taxes on behalf of a service member, here are a few important items to know before you start the process:
- File returns in your permanent home state. If you are stationed somewhere other than your permanent home address, you will still pay state taxes to your home state, in most cases. For example, if your legal state of residency is Kansas, but you're stationed in California, you will file state taxes in Kansas, if applicable.
- Access your tax statement online. You can go to myPay to view and print your military W-2 form before it is mailed to you. You can log in and use your CAC or your personal identification number to access your military W-2.
- Ensure you have a power of attorney if someone is filing on your behalf. If someone will be filing your return on your behalf ensure they attach a copy of the power of attorney to the tax return using Internal Revenue Service Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative.
- Find answers to your questions with the Internal Revenue Service Armed Forces' Tax Guide.
Military spouses have special considerations, as well:
- File a state tax return for the state where you are employed, in most cases, if you work outside your home state. However, the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act changed the rules so that spouses do not have to pay income tax to the current state where they are employed if they live with their service member in that state because of military orders. Visit the Internal Revenue Service for more specific information and to see if you quality for this tax relief.
Combat zone and hazardous duty deadline extensions
The Internal Revenue Service extends filing deadlines for service members for the following reasons:
- Serving in a combat zone or in direct support of those in a combat zone and receiving hostile fire or imminent danger pay.
- Hospitalized outside the United States because of injuries suffered in a combat zone or hazardous duty area.
Filing your taxes after April 15 is more common than you think, especially for people who are deployed. If you need more time, request an extension for your federal taxes without a penalty.
Your command will notify the Internal Revenue Service of your deployment to a combat zone, but you can also notify them directly through the special email address — email@example.com. Include your name, stateside address, birth date and date of deployment. You may also call the Internal Revenue Service’s free helpline at 800-829-1040. Should the Internal Revenue Service send a notice for collection or examination, return the notice with the words "combat zone" and the deployment date written in red at the top of the notice and on the envelope so the action can be suspended.
Getting help with your taxes
Military OneSource provides free tax preparation and filing services and tax consultations. The tax preparation and filing software walk you through a series of questions to help you complete your tax return. This self-paced tax software allows you to:
- Complete and electronically file your federal and up to three state tax forms
- Check your electronic filing
- Rest easy knowing the tax software vendor is by your side if you get audited
- Get 100 percent accurate calculations or the tax software vendor will reimburse you up to $10,000. Terms and conditions apply.
This online software product is easy to use, and free technical assistance is available if you need it. For technical assistance, such as login issues, using the software, printing returns, etc., call 855-897-8639 and follow the prompts. If you have any personal tax-related questions, call 800-342-9647 to speak with a Military OneSource tax consultant. Remember, these consultations are free.
You can also access Military OneSource tax preparation software at designated military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance locations where you can also find tax consultants who can sit down with you one-on-one and provide free counseling, as well as prepare your tax return(s) at no charge.
If you decide to see a private tax preparer, make sure he or she is familiar with the Internal Revenue Service Armed Forces' Tax Guide and has experience filing returns for service members and their families. You will need to take the following documents with you when you meet with a tax preparer:
- Military ID
- All W-2 and 1099 forms
- Social Security cards for all family members
- Deduction and credit information
- Bank account and routing numbers — if you choose to receive your refund by direct deposit
- Receipts for child care expenses
- Last year's tax return, if available
- Special power of attorney authorizing you to do business on behalf of a deployed service member
- Any documents for investments, rental properties, and mortgages
- Any documents you believe have a tax-related purpose
Before sending your tax forms to the Internal Revenue Service, remember to do the following:
- Check and recheck the figures
- Verify all Social Security numbers
Unless you qualify for an extension, the deadline for filing federal income tax is April 15. Check with your local county tax office for the deadline for filing state income tax, as those deadlines vary from state to state.
Make tax day easy. Military OneSource provides free confidential tax consultations, tax preparation and filing software. You can't beat that.