Finding an Accountant Who Understands the Military

I have always done the income tax returns for my family.  I am a trained tax preparer (though let me tell you, that doesn’t mean much), I’m pretty smart, and I figure that I have the strongest desire to make sure that everything is done right.

However, when the time came to do our 2008 returns, I was overwhelmed by the intricacies of small business accounting and decided to consult with an accountant.  I asked if she was familiar with the military but I did not ask a lot of specific questions.  We spent a few hours going over the forms nearly line-by-line, and I left with a list of questions that I needed to answer for the accountant.  Because my husband was deployed to a combat zone, I was in no hurry to complete the process.

Over the next few months, we exchange a host of emails and it became more and more clear that this accountant did not understand all the details of preparing taxes when military income is included.  Eventually I asked to pick up my information and decided that it would be easier to do it myself.

I would still like to consult with a professional when completing our taxes, but I don’t know where to find someone who gets the military.  Individual bases offer the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and MilitaryOneSource offers help, but these resources are designed for people who have relatively simple returns.  My family’s return is far from simple, with small business income and rental income and depreciation and all sorts of craziness.  I have become somewhat of an expert but I would still appreciate the opportunity to get a second opinion.

Some questions that I have thought to ask before I work with an accountant in the future:

  • How many military families do you work with?  Do they have complicated situations?  Rental income?  Self-employment income?
  • Are you familiar with the rules regarding combat deployments, tax-exempt income, automatic extensions to time to file, and various allowances and special pays?
  • Are you familiar with the state income tax laws for (fill in name of state of residence)?

I’m sure you can add some suggestions – I’d love to hear them.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Deborah davila

    I couldn’t agree more. Even the online tax softwares can over look many deductions that would benefit military families. state income tax rules vary widely from state to state and some have instructions that require a simple signed statement that you have not been in the state for more than 30 days to be exempt from paying taxes. I would compare finding a good accontant to finding a good lawyer. Afterall, it is your money that could affected year after year. 2010 was my 18th tax season and this past year had more new tax

    laws than any previous season.

  • Katrina

    Go to HR Block and ask for someone who has a military certification AND some who is former or active military or a military spouse.

    The rules change every year, and sometimes more.