Can you believe it is that time of year again? Tax season is here and it is usually the last thing you want to deal with, especially if your spouse is deployed. Deployment comes with stressors of its own; don't let your taxes be one of them. As military families, we know that we often face special circumstances with our taxes. If you don't know where to start, and are in need of some guidance, here are 4 things you should consider before filing your taxes.
1. Work with Your Legal Office
Did you forget to get a special power of attorney in order to file your taxes? Don't worry! Your base legal office can help. They provide not only services to prepare a special power of attorney, but many other tax services as well. First thing you will need to do is find your legal office on a nearby military installation. Using the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website, enter your zip code and the distance you are willing to travel, you will find the locations of the nearest legal offices near you.
You will want to call ahead to ensure, however most of these services are available at legal assistance offices:
Wills, testamentary trusts, and estate planning
Domestic relations, including divorce, legal separation, annulment, custody, and paternity
Adoption and name changes
Taxes, including basic advice and assistance on Federal, State, and local taxes <--- see below for more details on this!
Landlord-tenant relations, including review of personal leases and communication and correspondence
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act advice and assistance
So once you find your office, give them a call and schedule an appointment. Also, don't forget to ask them what documents to bring with you; you wouldn't want to make a wasted trip!
2. If You Need Help Filing Your Taxes Get It
If you need help getting your taxes filed, your legal office has a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) that can help. Make sure to call and check with your legal center to see if this service is available at your installation. The VITA will help you file your taxes free of charge, but you will want to make sure to go as early in the day as possible in order to avoid long lines. If you have decided to go to a private tax preparer, make sure they are familiar filing returns for service members and their dependents. Or you can always file your taxes yourself for free using the Military One Source website. I personally have been using this service for years and it works great for me and my family's needs.
3. Get The Other Things You Need
Whether you have decided to file with a professional, or do them yourself at home, there are still quite a few things you will need to ensure you have before you get started. A tax professional will let you know what to bring, but be sure to keep the following at hand and ready when filing:
• Military ID
• All W-2 and 1099 forms
• Social Security cards for all family members
• Deductions and credit information
• Bank account and routing numbers
• Receipts for child care expenses
• Last year's tax return
• Special power of attorney authorizing you to do business on behalf of the deployed service member. If you don't have this, call that legal office!
4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Lastly, but perhaps the most important thing to remember, ensure you give yourself enough time. Federal income taxes need to be filed no later than April 15, 2016, unless you qualify for an extension such as the Combat zone and hazardous duty extensions. If you or your spouse are serving in a combat zone or are receiving hostile fire or imminent danger pay, the deadline for filing income taxes is 180 days after your last day in the combat zone or hazardous duty area. The IRS has a list available of the combat zones. So make sure you have everything you need and make those appointments in time.
Content provided courtesy of USAA.