Taxes preparation for military members can be a bit quirky, but it can also be surprisingly straightforward, depending on your situation. Whether you just have your W-2 in hand or a huge stack of forms that may as well be in another language, there’s an abundance of resources available to help military families through the tax season.
Many military installations offer free tax preparation services with Volunteer Income Tax Assitance (VITA). If you haven’t already heard about a program on your base or post, call your JAG (legal) office to see if they have a program and information. While the volunteers have been trained and certified to prepare taxes, they aren’t qualified to handle every single issue that comes across their desks. If you have something about your taxes this year that falls outside their training, you might be referred you to a professional office, which may charge a fee.
Armed Forces Tax Guide
If you feel a little bit tax-savvy and want a general reference for military taxes, the IRS’s “Armed Forces Tax Guide,” available for download right at their website, might help answer some of your nagging questions.
Military One Source
If you are still unsure whether you should take on taxes yourself or find someone to do them for you, check out Military One Source which is sponsored by the Department of Defense, to get a wealth of information and resources for military members.
If you’re not already familiar with Military One Source it has a ton of great resources on everything from mental health to moving to free online books. Register with the site, which is only for military members and their dependents, with the exception of the Coast Guard*, and take some free time to browse and see if anything sparks your interest.
When it comes to taxes, MOS is a goldmine of free information for the military. Besides great articles on topics like “Filing Taxes When A Service Member is Deployed” there are many other articles collected from the IRS and other organizations to help you wade through the process and come up with an educated plan of how to tackle your taxes. MOS also offers free phone and email support with tax consultants. I ended up using the phone consultation and learned that you may need to make an appointment for call-back if you’d like to use this service.
Military One Source H&R Block At Home
If you don’t mind doing your taxes yourself, you can log in and file free Federal and up to 3 state tax returns through Military One Source H&R Block online. This is a great deal because companies like H&R Block and Turbo Tax will let anyone prepare basic federal taxes online for free, but there’s a charge for state taxes. I tried out H&R Block’s offer (You have to register with MOS and log-in to access the H&R Block site), and because I used H&R Block online last year, it automatically uploaded my previously entered information, which is a feature that companies often charge for. The uploaded information saved me a bit of tedious data entry, so I simply had to walk through their step by step system, enter my current data (don’t forget your W-2 is online at MyPay!) and I knew how much my federal refund was in less than an hour.
*Sorry, Coast Guard! Click here to read about the details on who is qualified to use Military One Source resources. If you tried to click the links and arrived at a log-in page, you can most likely register in the site if you are a current military member or if you are a dependent registered in DEERS.
This has been a guest post by Rachel from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!