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Ins and Outs of Filing Military Taxes When You Are Deployed

Uncle Sam is serious about collecting taxes — even service members who are deployed are expected to file their taxes. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service realizes service members and their families face unique circumstances and offers you tools — and some special extensions — to make tax filing easier.

Getting started on filing your taxes

If you are a service member or filing taxes on behalf of a service member, you’ll want to keep the following in mind when getting started on your taxes:

  • Get your statement online: You can go to myPay to get your military W-2 form. It is posted there before being mailed to you. You’ll need your Common Access Card or personal identification number to access it.
  • Gather other important information. Other documents you may need in order to file your taxes include 1099 forms, deduction and credit information, receipts for child-care expenses, last year’s tax return, and any documents for investments, rental properties or mortgages. You’ll also need your military ID and every family member’s Social Security number, bank account and routing numbers if you are filing electronically, and receipts for charitable donations.
  • File the return in your permanent state. If you are stationed away from your permanent home address, you will still pay taxes in your home state in most cases. Note: Military spouses who work and live with their service member in a state other than their home state, as a result of military orders, may not have to pay income tax in the state where they work. Check out whether this tax relief applies to you.
  • Make sure you have a power of attorney in place if someone is filing on your behalf. If your spouse or someone else is filing your tax return, make sure they have all your information and attach the power of attorney — a legal document that provides them authority to make financial decisions in your absence. The person filing your taxes on your behalf will need to attach Internal Revenue Service Form 2848 with the tax return.

Deadline extensions for combat zone and hazardous duty

Filing your taxes after the April 15 deadline is more common than you think. This is especially true for service members who are deployed. Uncle Sam extends filing deadlines — and paying of your income taxes — for service members who are:

  • Serving in a combat zone or directly supporting those in a combat zone, serving in a contingency operation, or having a “missing” status. Your tax extension generally starts the day you beginning serving in the combat zone for the period of your service plus 180 days afterwards. The spouse and dependents of those serving in combat zone or contingency operation sometimes also qualify. Your command will notify the Internal Revenue Service of your deployment so you can receive an automatic federal tax return extension. You may still want to write “COMBAT ZONE” in red on top of your tax return when you do file. You can double-check they have this information by e-mailing the IRS directly at: combatzone@irs.gov with your name, stateside address, birth date, and date of deployment.
  • Hospitalized outside the United States because of injuries suffered in a combat zone or hazardous duty area. This applies for the period the service member is continuously hospitalized outside of the United States as a result of injuries sustained while serving in a combat zone, including 180 days thereafter. For hospitalization inside the United States, the extension period cannot be more than five years.

Getting help filing taxes, getting an extension

In addition to serving in a combat zone, there are other ways service members can obtain an extension on filing taxes beyond the April 15 deadline. To find out more about your obligation to file taxes, obtain an extension, and discover service member-specific tax benefits, talk with a Military OneSource tax consultant at 800-342-9647 to schedule a free appointment.

Other tax assistance for service members and their families can be obtained through:

  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Offered for free by the Internal Revenue Service, this program is for those living on or off base and includes sites for military members overseas. Program staff can help you with military tax issues.
  • Military OneSource tax software program. Do-it-yourselfers can walk through a series of questions to help you complete your tax return on your own pace. The software will help you complete and electronically file your federal tax form (and up to three state tax forms), check your electronic filing and provide assistance if you are audited. The program also says if its calculations are not 100 percent accurate, it will reimburse you up to $10,000 with applicable terms and conditions.
  • The IRS has a web page on tax information for military members and for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Preparing and filing taxes is a citizen and service member duty. But as a member of the military family, you have a leg up on others. You can obtain easy and free access to tax consultants and financial counselors with military expertise. Contact Military OneSource to take advantage of this benefit.