When the military lifestyle requires service members to constantly be on the go, it can be hard to find a reliable, certified tax professional. But at most duty stations around the country, and around the world, the military has come up with a solution to bring tax professionals directly to the troops.
The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees military tax programs offered worldwide using a battery of certified tax preparers. 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.
The special Military VITA-certified employees who man VITA sites 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.
When meeting with a tax professional through the VITA program, it is important to bring the same documents a civilian-focused tax preparer would require. These often include valid photo identification; Social Security numbers for the taxpayer, spouse, and dependents; and birth dates for the taxpayer, spouse, and dependents. It is also important to bring income documents including wage and earning forms, such as Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R; interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099); and if available, a copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns.
For those service members seeking to have their tax refund directly deposited into their bank account, a tax preparer would also need routing and account numbers for the account.
Any other documents the service member has regarding income and expenses should be brought to the tax appointment as well. This may include child care expenses not paid for by the military, donations to nonprofits, and student loan information.
If married filing a joint return, generally both spouses need to sign. If both can’t be present to sign the return, they should bring a valid power of attorney form.
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.