Many members of the military are able to get their tax returns prepared for free on or off most military bases including overseas locations. The U.S. Armed Forces participates in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program sponsored by the IRS. VITA provides free tax advice, tax preparation, tax return filing and other tax help to military members and their families.
Here are four things you need to know about free military tax assistance:
1. Armed Forces Tax Council. The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees the military tax programs offered worldwide. AFTC partners with the IRS to conduct outreach to military personnel and their families. This includes the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
2. Volunteer tax sites. Military-based VITA sites staffed with IRS-trained volunteers provide free tax help and tax return preparation. Volunteers receive training on military tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits, filing extensions and special benefits that apply to the Earned Income Tax Credit.
3. What to bring. To receive free tax assistance, bring the following records to your military VITA site:
- Valid photo identification
- Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents, or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents
- Wage and earning statement(s), such as Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R
- Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099)
- A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available
- Checkbook for routing and account numbers for direct deposit of your tax refund
- Total amount paid for day care and day care provider’s identifying number. This is usually an Employer Identification Number or Social Security number.
- Other relevant information about income and expenses
4. Joint returns. If you are married filing a joint return and wish to file electronically, both you and your spouse should be present to sign the required forms. If both cannot be present, you usually must bring a valid power of attorney form along with you. You may use IRS Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative for this purpose.
There is a special exception to this rule if your spouse is in a combat zone. The exception allows a spouse to prepare and e-file a joint return with a written statement stating the other spouse is in a combat zone and unable to sign.
IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, has more helpful information for members of the military. You can download free publications from the IRS.gov website or order them by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
If your aren’t sure how to take advantage of this free help, call me. Happy to help those who serve!