The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides free tax help to military members and their families. On or off base, VITA is easy to find — even overseas. Keep these five tips in mind about free tax help for the military:
1. Armed Forces Tax Council. The Armed Forces Tax Council directs the military tax programs offered worldwide.
2. Certified Staff. Military VITA-certified employees staff these sites. They receive training on military tax issues, like tax benefits for service in a combat zone. They can help with special extensions of time to file tax returns and to pay taxes or with special rules that apply to the Earned Income Tax Credit.
3. What to Bring. Take the following records to a military VITA site:
- Valid photo identification.
- Social Security numbers for the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents; or individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) or adoption taxpayer identification numbers (ATINs) for those who don’t have Social Security numbers.
- Birth dates for the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents.
- Wage and earning forms, 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
- Routing and account numbers for direct deposit of a tax refund.
- Total amount paid for day care and the 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 married filing a joint return, generally both persons need to sign. If both can’t be present to sign the return, they should bring a valid power of attorney form unless eligible for an exception. Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, has more details.
5. Use IRS Free File. Taxpayers with income of $64,000 or less qualify for Free File software. Those with income more than $64,000 can use Free File Fillable Forms. Using the IRS2Go app, a taxpayer can now use their cell phone or tablet to prepare and e-file their federal tax return through IRS Free File.
Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.
Additional IRS Resources:
- Military Pay Exclusion – Combat Zone Service
- Publication 4940, Tax Information for Active Duty Military and Reserve Personnel
- Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide
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