Military Families Can File Taxes Free Online

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

tax timeYou should have your W-2s in hand from DFAS and any other civilian or government employer today. The same applies if you have self-employment or independent contractor income on a 1099.

If you are active military, Reserve, Guard or a dependent filing jointly with your spouse, you can file your income taxes online free of charge, via the MilitaryOneSource website, www.militaryonesource.com.

MilitaryOneSource has partnered with H&R Block to provide this service free of charge to military members and their families. The service allows you to file your federal taxes free, as well as personal income tax returns for up to three states.

To use the service, gather your W-2s, 1099s, and records from your tax-deductible expenses, and log onto the MilitaryOneSource website. If you don’t have a login already, you will need to create one.

Should I do my own taxes?

Free and low-cost file-at-home sites are not always the best solution. The H&R Block program via MilitaryOneSource should work for you, though, if your tax situation is simple and straightforward.

Consider the free filing offer if the following conditions apply:

  • All your income is documented on one or more W-2 forms.
  • You do not plan to itemize, because you don’t have anywhere near the standard deduction in itemized deductions. For individuals, that threshold is $5,950 if you are filing as an individual, and double that figure for spouses. If you qualify as a head of household, your standard deduction is $8,700. These numbers apply specifically for tax year 2012.
  • You do not have a mortgage, or the mortgage and some retirement plan contributions are your only deductions.
  • You are not subject to the alternative minimum tax.
  • You do not own a small business.
  • You do not on investment real estate.
  • You have no capital gains or losses from the sale of assets.
  • You do not have more than $400 in self-employment income.

If your tax situation is more complicated, it’s usually beneficial to form a relationship with a tax professional – a CPA, enrolled agent or qualified tax attorney, depending on your situation. While there is not a lot they can do to offset their fees if you are a straight-ahead W-2 worker, such as active duty military with no outside interests or investments, they are often more than worth their fees for those with more complex issues:

  • Small Business owners
  • Homeowners
  • Real estate investors
  • College expenses
  • Travel and relocation
  • Business use of home or personal automobile
  • Capital gains and losses
  • Annuity or pension income
  • Gift taxes
  • Unreimbursed employee expenses

For ‘plain vanilla’ returns for those with enough time to sit down themselves and do the paperwork, however, the MilitaryOneSource is a great resource.

If you are somewhere in between these two types of taxpayers, though, try calling a MilitaryOneSource tax counselor. They can provide general tax information and help steer you in the right direction, though they do not provide definitive advice.

According to MilitaryOneSource, their counselors can provide the following services:

  • Review IRS regulations/state tax regulations and forms to locate the definition or information related to your questions.
  • Locate and reference military-specific tax information.
  • Help you figure out which numbers should be entered into which fields of particular form(s).
  • Provide electronic copies of needed IRS or state tax forms.
  • Explain additional tax services available to the military community such as VITA Clinics on base and H&R Block at Home®
  • Review options for utilizing a refund—savings, paying down debt.
  • Connect you to other MilitaryOneSource provided non-medical counseling or work-life services.

Alternatively, TurboTax has published a free resource of their own – TurboTax Military Edition, which is free for anyone in grades E-1 through E-5, and just $24.99 for E-6s and up.

Volunteer Tax Assistance Programs

Many military posts have volunteers come to help members of the military prepare their tax returns, under the IRS VITA program, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Check with your installation community centers to see if there will be any such program for your area. If you aren’t on or near a large installation, or you simply want to go elsewhere, you use the IRS VITA Locator tool, or call the IRS at 1-800-906-9887.

For Retirees

VITA volunteers are generally happy to work with retirees, though the VITA program is funded by grants to non-profits and their programs are generally designed to serve those with incomes below $51,000 per year.

If you are over 60, however, you can also get assistance from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP.org), or via the IRS’s TCE program.

What to Bring

According to the IRS, “to have your tax return(s) prepared at a VITA or TCE site you need to bring the following information with you:

  • Proof of identification – Picture ID
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax returnWage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.                 

It is extremely important that each person use the correct Social Security Number. The most accurate information is usually located on your original Social Security card. If you do not have an SSN for you or a dependent, you should complete Form SS-5, Social Security Number Application. This form should be submitted to the nearest Social Security Administration Office.”

 

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