Just thinking about the start of tax season is enough to cause most people a major headache. Between collecting the right documents, following all the tax laws and getting everything submitted on time, tax time can be overwhelming. But with the correct preparation on your part and some help from outside resources, like your installation military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance office and Military OneSource, you can make this tax season much less stressful for you and your family.
Preparing ahead of time
One way to make tax time easier is to start gathering all the necessary documents and information you need ahead of time. Designate a specific location (a folder, a drawer, a shoebox, etc.) where you can place all the relevant information, so that when you are ready to file, you have everything you need.
Here are some of the things you should start gathering:
- Social Security number and date of birth for you, your spouse and other eligible family members
- Child care, education and adoption costs documentation
- All W-2 forms, from all employers for you, and your spouse
- Form 1099 for independent contractors
- Investment income forms
- Alimony information
- Social Security benefits information
- Miscellaneous income forms
- Form 1098-E for student loan interest
- Form 1098 for home mortgage interest
- Charitable donations receipts
- Medical and dental expense bills
- Real estate tax documents
- Receipts for any deductible expenses
- Any documentation you think is pertinent to file your taxes
Your military W-2 forms are typically available from your military service beginning in January. You can download your military W-2 from myPay. Tax forms are available at your local post office and library. You can also download them from the Internal Revenue Service website.
In addition to gathering important documents, here are some other ways to get ahead of the tax time curve:
- Create a list of questions for a tax consultant — You may wonder whether or not you can write off certain expenses or whether you qualify for an extension. Write all of this down and ask a professional.
- Don't wait until the last minute to start your taxes — Just because the deadline is in April doesn't mean you have to wait until then to get started.
- Be aware of special tax benefits you may qualify for as a service member, including a filing extension — Visit the Internal Revenue Service website or contact a trained Military OneSource tax consultant to find out more about these benefits.
- Pay attention to tax scams — Each year, the Internal Revenue Service informs and educates the public about the most common tax scams, which include unscrupulous tax preparers or phishing. To learn more about how to avoid these scams, visit the Internal Revenue Service website.
Taking advantage of Military OneSource tax services
Military OneSource provides online tax preparation and filing services at no cost to you. The service allows you to complete and electronically file your federal and up to three state tax returns or filings. The software is self-paced; therefore, you do not have to complete the return all at one time. When you begin, you create a secure user identification and password, which enables you to log on, save, close and return to the program as needed.
In addition, Military OneSource provides year-round access to trained tax and financial consultants who can help you and your family find answers to your tax questions and maximize your refund.
Trained Military OneSource tax consultants:
- Share information about the unique tax requirements and issues related to military personnel and their families
- Identify applicable Internal Revenue Service and state tax regulations, definitions and forms
- Provide electronic copies of tax forms and help you understand how to complete them
- Review options for using a refund, including options for using it to pay down debt
- Explain additional tax services available to the military community such as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program
To learn more about Military OneSource tax services, call 800-342-9647.
Determining your eligibility
The following individuals are eligible for Military OneSource tax services:
- All active-duty service members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force
- Members of the National Guard and of the Reserve Component (regardless of activation status)
- Members of the Coast Guard Reserve activated as part of the Department of the Navy under Title 10 authority
- Service members who retired (includes medically retired individuals) and discharged honorably (includes general under honorable conditions) are eligible until 180 days past their retirement date, end of tour of service, or discharge date
- Spouses and children of the eligible service members and those who are authorized in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System
- A family member who is taking care of the affairs of an eligible service member when the service member is deployed
- A severely injured service member of one of the services noted above, or a designated family member of a severely injured service member who is incapable of handling his or her own affairs
- Members of the DoD civilian expeditionary workforce when deployed (as defined by DoD Directive 1404.10) during the 90 days prior to deployment and 180 days post deployment
The personal financial readiness of service members and their families is a top priority of the Department of Defense. The Department provides a wide range of tools and services to help service members and their families reduce debt, achieve savings goals and attain financial flexibility.
Here are some resources designed to assist you and your family:
- The Personal Financial Management Program — This is an installation-based program offered by each of the services. Personal financial counselors provide education and counseling services that address a range of financial topics, including retirement planning, banking, budgeting, record keeping and more.
- Financial counseling — Financial counseling is available through Military OneSource (in addition to the tax consultation services) and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program.
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program — The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides no-cost tax advice and preparation, return filing and other tax assistance to military members and their families. To find a program site near you, use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Legal Services locator.
- Internal Revenue Service — The Internal Revenue Service website is full of helpful resources, forms and tips to make tax time easier for you.
Military families prosper when they can manage their finances well and save money for the future. Begin this year with a stress-free tax season and get on track to financial readiness and long-term financial well-being. Call 800-342-9647 or visit Military OneSource to get started.