Members of the United States Armed Forces should be aware of the tax incentives that are available to them. You must be a member of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, or military reserve to qualify.
Postponement of tax deadlines, partly or entirely tax-free payments, tax deductions, and other advantages related to filing tax returns are among the tax incentives you may be eligible for if you qualify. Learning how to take advantage of these tax deductions will help you make the most of your money and military perks.
- If you serve in a conflict zone, your salary is partly or entirely tax-free, and you get automatic extensions on tax-filing deadlines.
- During tax season, most military posts provide tax preparation and filing help.
- Select expenditures, such as relocating charges, reservist travel, and some uniforms, may be deductible when submitting your taxes.
Helpful Tax Tips
Keep the following two guidelines in mind when it comes to general tax information:
- Battle pay exclusion: If you serve in a combat zone, your combat pay is partly or completely tax-free. You may also be eligible for an extension if you serve in a conflict zone.
- Tax preparation and filing aid services: If preparing your taxes is the most difficult aspect of tax season for you, get assistance from the tax preparation and filing support services that most military bases provide throughout tax season. Some even give assistance beyond the (typical) April deadline.
When Filing Your Taxes
When it comes to filing your taxes, keep in mind that you may be eligible for deadline extensions and that you may have alternatives when it comes to signing your return or deciding what to include as taxable income.
- Extensions: Military personnel serving in a conflict zone are automatically granted extensions to their tax reporting deadlines. You may request an extension to submit your tax return and pay your taxes.
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Even though your combat pay is not taxable, you may opt to include it in your taxable income. If you do, your EITC may increase, perhaps contributing to a greater return.
- Spouses may be permitted to sign a tax form for a spouse who is away due to military commitments or circumstances. To submit a joint return, you may require a power of attorney (POA); the legal office at your installation may be able to assist you.
Deductions and Allowances
It’s important to understand the deductions and allowances available when submitting your taxes. This may make a significant difference in the amount you owe or are reimbursed, so make use of all available options.
- Moving expenditure deduction: Form 3903 may be used to deduct moving expenses. This is typically only true when the relocation is due to a permanent change in station.
- Members of the reserves may deduct unreimbursed travel expenditures if their responsibilities take them more than 100 miles away from home. This is something they can accomplish using Form 2016. (even if they do not itemize their deductions).
- Uniform deduction: Some mandatory uniforms cannot be worn when off duty. These may be subtracted for the cost and maintenance. Any allowance for these expenditures must be deducted from your deductible.
- If you leave the military and pursue other employment, you may be entitled to deduct certain job search expenditures, such as travel, resume preparation, job placement agency fees, and even relocating costs.
- ROTC allowances: Some funds provided to ROTC students in advanced training, including as education and subsistence allowances, are not taxable. Active duty ROTC salary and summer advanced camp pay, on the other hand, are taxable.
Other Tax Considerations
There are other tax implications to be aware of, including those that impact veterans or dependents.
- Disabled veterans may be entitled for a federal tax refund if their percentage of disability was increased by the Department of Veterans Affairs (this may include a retroactive determination)Alternatively, if they are a combat-disabled veteran receiving Combat-Related Special Compensation.
- The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Equity Act of 2016: Veterans who suffer combat-related injuries are not taxed if they receive a lump-sum disability severance payout from the Department of Defense, according to this legislation. If you were taxed on this payment, the Department of Defense must tell you to revise your return.
- The death gratuity payout granted to the survivors of dead Armed Forces soldiers is not taxable.
- Dependent care support programs: These benefit plans, which help pay for the care of qualified dependents, are not included as income for the service member.
- Education benefits: If you are now serving or have previously served and are getting education benefits, they are exempt from taxes.
The Bottom Line
The Internal Revenue Service publishes an Armed Services’ Tax Guide that goes into considerable depth concerning taxes for members of the armed forces.
Knowing as much as possible about the tax incentives available to service members can help you make the most of your money. Whether you are actively serving or a veteran, you should always evaluate tax issues when filing your taxes to ensure that you are taking full advantage of all your advantages.
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