Being in the military can bring some unique questions when it is time to file your income tax returns. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of free resources to help you find answers and get that return filed.
These programs have varying eligibility requirements; you’ll have to check and see which one will work for you.
Military OneSource MilTax Program
The Department of Defense offers tax assistance in the form of free online tax filing software and virtual consultations with tax professionals who understand the questions of military life.
For 2020, the MilTax filing software will be available on Jan. 22. It’s online, and it’s free! In past years, it has been the H&R Block at Home tax software, and I think it will be the same software this year.
Tax consultants are available at any time via internet chat or telephone. If you’re in the U.S. you can reach a consultant by calling 800-342-9647, or there are special instructions for calling internationally.
I have asked around and almost everyone who has used the Military OneSource tax assistance has been happy with the software and the telephone consultation.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
While Army installations have stopped offering this service, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is offered in person at other locations worldwide, including military specific locations. Volunteers are trained in basic tax situations, and sometimes have additional training in specifics, but they may not be your best choice if you have a particularly complex tax return.
Military locations serve military families regardless of income. Volunteers at these locations have training specifically for military questions You can find out if there is a location near you by using the locator tool for military locations.
Non-military locations have eligibility qualifications, typically a household income of less than $56,000 per year Volunteers at non-military locations may not be as knowledgeable about military questions. You can find a non-military location using this locator tool.
Software With Free Military Versions
Many online tax software providers have free versions for military families. Many restrict their free versions to certain income levels or ranks, and you may have to pay for extra forms or state returns.
TaxAct offers military free returns for all levels of product, including multiple forms.
TaxSlayer offers free federal returns for all active duty military. State returns have an additional cost.
TurboTax Military Edition: Free for all enlisted active duty and reservists. Not available to officers. Includes federal and state returns.
I think it is super important to understand your taxes, even if you are getting help with the actual preparation. First, you can’t tell if software or a preparer has made a mistake if you don’t understand. Second, understanding can help you when faced with decisions that might impact your tax situation.
A great way to learn about your taxes is to go through your last tax return, line by line. Find out what goes on a line, and then learn a little bit about it. The internet is full of resources to explain every single tax concept out there! Continue until you’ve gotten through the entire return.
With these great resources, you can hopefully avoid spending a ton on tax preparation fees and get your returns done simply.
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