tax help

Free Tax Help for Military Members and Their Families

The IRS wants military personnel and their families to know that they can get tax help free of charge.

The no-cost tax help comes courtesy of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program. Both the IRS and the U.S. Armed Forces participate in the VITA program, which offers everything from complimentary tax preparation service to free tax advice for members of the military and their families.

What’s more, the Armed Forces Tax Council – which oversees military tax programs worldwide – does outreach with the IRS to those in the armed forces. The council includes tax program coordinators for the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.

The trained volunteers who offer tax assistance through VITA even work on military-based sites. These tax pros are trained to handle questions and issues that face those in the military, such as combat zone tax benefits or how those with children can take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

If you go to a military VITA site for free tax advice or tax filing services, the IRS recommends that you bring the following documents with you:

•                Valid photo identification

•                Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a social security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration

•                Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents

•                Wage and earning statement(s) — Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R

•                Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099)

•                A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available

•                Checkbook to get routing number and account number for direct deposit

•                Total amount paid for day care and day care provider’s identifying number

•                Other relevant information about income and expenses

For those who are married and filing joint returns, both spouses must be present if you want to file a tax return electronically.

If someone can’t be present, you must have a valid power of attorney allowing the tax forms to be signed and filed.

However, if one spouse is in a combat zone, a special exception can be granted to using a power of attorney. In such a case, the filing spouse would only need to file a written statement attesting to the fact that the other spouse is in a combat zone and is unable to sign.

It’s often well worth it to pay a professional or to use computer software in preparing an income tax return. But for those on a budget, getting qualified help at no cost is the best of both worlds. And that’s what the professionals who volunteer with VITA offer.

If you can’t make it to a VITA site, at the very least take a few minutes to read IRS Publication 3, the Armed Forces Tax Guide. You can get it online at http://www.IRS.gov or call this toll-free number for a copy of the guide: 800-829-3676.

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