By Amy Miller, AFC®
It’s that time again – time to file our taxes.
Taxes can be tricky to navigate, especially for service members. As we all know, base pay is just one part of the equation since military members can earn many types of pay and allowances. BAH, combat pay, drill pay, sea pay, special duty pay and so on all play a role in the process so this week I thought we would start getting ready for that April 18th deadline.
As always, you will need to get all your important documents and paperwork ready. Hopefully, you’ve been keeping good records throughout the year, and gathering them won’t be much of a task. Documents needed include:
- All social security cards (or numbers) for all individuals you plan to claim
- Military IDs and/or state IDs
- All W2s, 1099s, copies of relevant orders, TDYS, and any other related benefits or tax items you may have earned during the year
- Other Income – rental properties, investments, side hustles etc.
- Alimony and/or child support records
- Mortgage interest statements
- Childcare expenses
- Military related travel expenses
- Donation receipts
- Last year’s tax return
Whether you chose to file yourself or look to a professional, there are several free or discounted options available to military families when it comes to preparing and filing tax returns.
The IRS VITA Program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) offers filing help for active-duty service members and will often have an office open on base during tax season. These offices are staffed with volunteers that are trained by the IRS to assist with military-specific tax issues. You can learn more and check to see if one will be available on your base through the Airman & Family Readiness Center, Fleet & Family Support, or your First Sergeant’s office.
MilTax is a program offered through Military OneSource that offers free tax software, preparation assistance, access to tax consultants, and up-to-date information about military taxes. This service is typically available from January through mid-October each year.
IRS Free File is also an option. This program offers no-cost online tax preparation from participating companies, electronic filing, and direct deposit to anyone making an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less. It is set up so that you follow the company’s guided program by answering a series of simple questions and then the system does the rest. TaxAct and Tax Slayer are two of the participating companies this year. It’s important to note that each company’s requirements are different and there may be additional fees for state filings. This program is not military-specific and is available to anyone that meets the income requirement.
Many times, the basic edition of these programs is sufficient, however, if you have a more complicated tax return, as many military members do, the upgraded programs may be necessary.
However you choose to file this year, I hope that you find this information helpful in getting started.