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Five Tips about Free Tax Help for the Military

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IRS Tax Tip 2015-40, March 17, 2015

The IRS offers free tax help to members of the military and their families. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has help sites both on and off base. This includes VITA sites to help our military overseas. Here are five tips to know about free tax help for the military:

  1. Armed Forces Tax Council.  The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees the military tax programs offered worldwide. AFTC partners with the IRS to do outreach to the military. This includes the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.

  2. Trained volunteers.  IRS-trained volunteers staff the military VITA sites. They receive training on military tax issues, like tax benefits for service in a combat zone. The staff can help you with special extensions of time to file your tax return and to pay your taxes or with special rules that apply to the Earned Income Tax Credit. You can also get help with the new health care law tax provisions.  

  3. What to bring.  Take the following records with you to your military VITA site when you go to file your tax return:
    • Valid photo identification.
    • Social Security numbers for you, your spouse and dependents.
    • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents.
    • Your wage and earning forms, such as Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R.
    • Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099).
    • Health Insurance Marketplace Statement (Forms 1095-A).
    • Exemption Certificate Number for exemptions that you obtained through the Marketplace.
    • A copy of your last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available.
    • Routing and account numbers for direct deposit of your tax refund.
    • Total amount you paid for day care and the day care provider’s identifying number. This is usually an Employer Identification Number or Social Security number.
    • Other relevant information about your income and expenses.

    Although nothing in the IRS rules or regulations require you to provide proof of health coverage at the time you file, if you have documents that verify your coverage, you should show them to your tax preparer. The IRS will follow its normal compliance approach to filed tax returns, and may ask you to substantiate the information on your tax return. You should keep these documents with your tax records. Learn more about the types of records you should keep at our Gathering Your Health Coverage Documentation page.

  4. Joint returns.  If you are married filing a joint return, generally both you and your spouse need to sign. If you both can’t be present to sign the return, you should bring a valid power of attorney form. Use Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative. There is a special exception to this rule if your spouse is in a combat zone. The exception allows you to file a joint return with a signed statement explaining that your spouse is in a combat zone and unable to sign.

  5. IRS Free File.  Do your own taxes with IRS Free File. You can use free, brand-name software or online fillable forms. If your income was $60,000 or less, you qualify for Free File software. If you made more than $60,000, you can use Free File Fillable Forms. Learn more at IRS.gov/freefile.

See IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, for more on this topic. You can view, download or print the booklet and tax forms on IRS.gov/forms anytime.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 15-Oct-2015