Man helping another man with filing paperwork

Tax Extensions for Survivors

If you're a survivor of a service member who has died on active duty, you may have the option of taking extra time to file your tax return.

The deadline for filing tax returns, paying taxes, filing claims for refunds and taking other actions with the Internal Revenue Service may be extended for 180 days after:

  • The last day the service member was in a combat zone, had qualifying service outside of the combat zone, or served in a contingency operation (or the last day the area qualifies as a combat zone or the operation qualifies as a contingency operation)
  • The last day of any continuous qualified hospitalization for injury from service in the combat zone or contingency operation or while performing qualifying service outside of the combat zone, (qualified hospitalization is any hospitalization outside the United States, and up to five years of hospitalization in the United States).

In addition to the 180 days, the filing deadline is extended by the number of days that remained for filing the federal income tax return when the service member qualified for the extension. For example, you generally have from Jan. 1 to April 15 each year to file your federal income tax return. Any days of this period that were left when the service member entered the combat zone — or the entire period if the qualifying service began before Jan. 1 — are added to the 180 days when determining the last day allowed for filing. When the date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day.

Spouses of individuals who served in a combat zone or contingency operation are entitled to the same deadline extensions with two exceptions. The extension does not apply to a spouse for any tax year beginning more than two years after the date that the area ceased to be a combat zone or the operation ceased to be a contingency operation. The extension also does not apply to a spouse for any period the qualifying individual is hospitalized in the United States for injuries incurred in a combat zone or contingency operation.

MilTax, Military OneSource tax services, offers free tax consultations to answer your questions and provide guidance on navigating your taxes. MilTax also provides free, secure tax software tailored to the special circumstances of military life.

What the filing extension covers

Contact your installation legal assistance office if the Internal Revenue Service fails to recognize an extension for which you're qualified.

The deadline extension provision applies to:

  • Filing any return of income, estate, gift, employment or excise tax
  • Paying any income, estate, gift, employment or excise tax
  • Filing a petition with the tax court for redetermination of a deficiency, or for review of a tax court decision
  • Filing a claim for credit or refund of any tax
  • Bringing suit for any claim for credit or refund
  • Making a qualified retirement contribution to an individual retirement account
  • Allowing a credit or refund of any tax by the Internal Revenue Service
  • Assessment of any tax by the Internal Revenue Service
  • Giving or making any notice or demand by the Internal Revenue Service for the payment of any tax, or for any liability for any tax
  • Collection by the Internal Revenue Service of any tax due
  • Bringing suit by the United States for any tax due

If the Internal Revenue Service takes any actions covered by these provisions or sends you a notice of examination before learning that you are entitled to an extension of the deadline, contact your legal assistance office. No penalties or interest will be imposed for failure to file a return or pay taxes during the extension period.

Tax forgiveness

When a service member dies on active duty, the Internal Revenue Service may forgive the amount of federal tax the service member would have paid, as well as refund the tax paid for a period of time prior to the death. For information on what is offered through the Internal Revenue Service and whether you qualify, go to Military OneSource and read "Tax Forgiveness."

Tax help is a call or click away

Contact a MilTax consultant for survivor benefits assistance. Military OneSource financial counselors and MilTax consultants have expertise in military-specific situations and are here to help you find answers.