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Members of the Armed Forces Get Special Tax Benefits

August 31, 2017

 

If someone serves in a combat zone, or provides direct support, part or even all of their combat pay is tax-free. However, there are limits for commissioned officers. See Earned Income Tax Credit below for important information.

Some members of the military, such as those who serve in a combat zone, can postpone most tax deadlines. Those who qualify can get automatic extensions of time to file and pay their taxes.

Reservists whose duties take them more than 100 miles away from home can deduct their unreimbursed travel expenses on Form 2106, even if they do not itemize their deductions.

Taxpayers who serve may be able to deduct some of their unreimbursed moving costs on Form 3903. This normally applies if the move is due to a permanent change of station.

Members of the military can deduct the cost and upkeep of their uniform, but only if rules say they cannot wear it off duty. Also, they must reduce their deduction by any uniform allowance they get for those costs.

If those serving get nontaxable combat pay, they may choose to include it in their taxable income to increase the amount of EITC. That means they could owe less tax and get a larger refund. For tax year 2016, the maximum credit for taxpayers is $6,269. It is best to figure the credit both ways to find out which works best.

Both spouses normally must sign a joint income tax return. If military service prevents that, one spouse may be able to sign for the other or get a power of attorney.

Some amounts paid to ROTC students in advanced training are not taxable. This applies to allowances for education and subsistence. Active duty ROTC pay is taxable. For instance, pay for summer advanced camp is taxable.

If service members leave the military and look for work, they may be able to deduct some job search expenses, including travel, resume and job placement fees. Moving expenses may also qualify for a tax deduction.

Most military bases offer free tax preparation and filing assistance during the tax filing season. Some also offer free tax help after the April deadline. Check with the installation’s tax office (if available) or legal office for more information.

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