Joshua Andrews, CFP®, USAA | Date published: Dec. 2, 2021. | 2 to 3 minutes
Serving in the military can change how you view taxes. Take a look at our five tax tips for service members and their families.
As tax time approaches, military members and their families should take time to understand the special advantages the IRS extends to them.
Here are some of the benefits that could apply to you:
- For deployed service members: Many service members know combat pay isn’t taxable. This benefit can save thousands of dollars, and it’s already reflected on tax forms. Deployed members also may request extensions for filing tax returns, paying taxes and contributing to IRAs. But be aware of the potential downside — a delay in filing can delay a refund too, if the IRS owes you money.
- For members of the Reserve and National Guard: When your Reserve or Guard duties take place more than 100 miles away from home, you may be able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses. What’s more, the cost to purchase and maintain uniforms can be tax-deductible if off-duty wear is prohibited — as is usually the case. Just make sure to factor in any uniform allowance or reimbursement.
- For military spouses: Since 2009, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act has allowed spouses to keep an established state of residency when accompanying a service member relocating on orders. That means those married to service members don’t necessarily pay state income taxes in the state where they’ve relocated.
- For home sellers: Taxpayers selling homes may avoid paying capital gains taxes if they’ve lived in the home for two of the five years before the sale. Uniformed members may get relief from this rule if orders require them to move — though the details can be complex.
- Free assistance: Don’t forget that free tax assistance is available for military members and for some civilians as well.
- MilTax from Military OneSource and the Department of Defense includes tax preparation support and e-filing software that is personalized to military life.
- However, military members aren’t the only ones who might receive free tax preparation services. IRS Free File is available during tax season for tax filers up to certain income limits.
- Another program available to members of the military and civilians is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, known as VITA. VITA for military members, which is offered through the Armed Force Tax Council, offers free tax consultation and preparation. Information about VITA for civilians only can be found here.
- Finally, all enlisted active-duty military members and reservists can file both federal and state taxes online for free with any TurboTax Product.