Military members get so many odd little benefits, and one of them is that they should almost never need to pay for income tax preparation services. There are several ways to get help with your taxes without paying.
The two main ways are the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program on your military base, and the second way is through Military One Source. There are other options available, as well, through various low income filing service. However, both the VITA program and the program through Military One Source are supposed to be specially able to deal with questions common to military families.
VITA is a program of volunteers who are trained by IRS representatives. Usually managed by an installations legal services department (whatever your branch might call it), nearly all bases have VITA volunteers. There are even VITA volunteers in some deployed locations. Check your base newspaper for locations, or call your legal department. (I have searched for a list of VITA location information and can not find one. If you know where to find such a list, please let me know.)
Second, a special program administered by Military One Source allows military members free access to H&R Block’s Block at Home tax preparation software. You must register with Block at Home via the Military One Source link, or the software will code you as a paying user. This software is more than adequate for most military taxpayers to complete their tax returns.
When preparing your income tax returns, the process will be much faster if you come prepared with the following documentation:
- Photo identification
- Social Security cards or numbers for the taxpayer, their spouse, and dependents, if applicable
- Birth dates for primary and secondary earners and dependents on the tax return
- Current year’s tax package if they received one
- Wage and earning statements (W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R forms) from all employers
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms)
- A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
- Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit
- Other relevant information about income and expenses
- Total amount paid for day care
- Day care providers identifying number (tax ID or SSN)
To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms. However, there is a provision for the spouse of a deployed service member to file without the service member’s presence.
These resources are a great way to get questions answered, or to double check the calculations you make in doing your return. I tend to do my return manually, then use the H&R free software to check my work.