Did Tax Day come a little quickly for you this year? If so, you can file for a free extension on your taxes. Filing an extension gives you until October 15th to file your tax return. It’s important to know that while anyone can file for a tax extension, you are still required to pay any taxes to the government by April 15th, even if you filed for a tax deadline extension. You will need to pay a minimum of 90% of your total tax bill to avoid late fees or penalties. If you are expecting a refund, there are no fees or penalties for filing your return late. This makes sense – the government is in a hurry to get your money, but not in a hurry to give it back!
The above rules apply to almost everyone. However, some military members and civilians are eligible for a tax extension without being required to pay the minimum estimated taxes – provided they are serving overseas in direct support of a combat operation. Let’s take a look at the rules for these tax deadline extensions.
Tax Deadline Extension for Deployed Military Members
Military members who served overseas in a tax free zone in the previous or current tax year are eligible to apply for an extension to file and pay their taxes. In many cases they will not have to pay estimated taxes before April 15th if they will owe taxes this year. This is a nice way for he IRS to recognize your duties in serving our country. The tax return deadline for those who file extensions is normally October 15th. However, if you deployed to a combat zone, your deadline for filing taxes will depend on when you were deployed, and when you returned from your deployment.
When is your tax return due if you were deployed? If you are or were deployed, your tax return deadline is determined by taking into account the start and end date of your deployment, and doing a little simple math.
Let’s begin with your deploy start date. You count the number of days to the normal tax filing deadline (normally April 15th unless it falls on a holiday or weekend; then the next business day). Take this number, then add 180 days. This is the total number of days you have until your tax return is due. You add this number to your redeployment date; this gives you your tax return due date.
Let’s look at a simple example: Let’s say you deployed on April 1, 2014 and the tax return deadline is April 15th. This gives you 15 days. Add this to 180 for a total of 195. You have 195 days from the day you redeploy to your non-combat zone role. If you returned on October 1, 2014 your 2013 tax return would be due April 15, 2015. This is coincidentally the same day as your 2014 tax return is due.
You will have until the new due date to file your tax return and make any payments without penalties or interest. If you are owed money, you may actually be entitled to an interest payment from the IRS, provided you file your tax return by your new deadline.
Tax Extensions Can Be Added on Top of Each Other
It is possible for these extensions to stack on top of each other. Let’s use the above example and assume the military member was deployed from April 1, 2014 through Oct. 1, 2014. As we mentioned, the new tax filing deadline would be April 15, 2015, the same day as this member’s 2014 taxes would be due. However, if the service member deployed to the AOR again before the April 15th deadline, he would be able to extend the deadline one more time, and any time would carry over with the same formula.
Word of advice: don’t let things go that far. I know taxes aren’t fun, but you don’t want to extend them indefinitely. It will make your bookkeeping much more difficult in the long run, and increase the odds of you or the IRS making errors in your return. This could be costly in terms of dollars or time spent. My recommendation is to get your taxes done as soon as you can so you can avoid any unnecessary delays or problems.
Which locations are eligible for a tax deadline extension?
According to the IRS,
“You are considered to be serving in a combat zone if you are either assigned on official temporary duty to a combat zone or you qualify for hostile fire/imminent danger pay while in a combat zone.”
Military service outside a combat zone is considered to be performed in a combat zone if:
- The Department of Defense designates that the service is in direct support of military operations in the combat zone, and
- The service qualifies you for special military pay for duty subject to hostile fire or imminent danger. Military pay received for this service will qualify for the combat zone exclusion if all of the requirements (other than service in a combat zone) are met and the pay is verifiable by reference to military pay records.
Deadline Extensions Also Apply to Non-Military In Direct Support of Combat Ops
This deadline extension applies to certain civilian members who are serving in a combat zone in support of military operations. This includes career fields such as Merchant Marines, Red Cross workers, civil service members, accredited correspondents, and civilian contractors. The hey here is the duties must be in direct support of military operations. Simply being a civilian in the country and working a civilian job not related to military service is not enough to qualify for the extension.
Installment Payments to IRS Can Be Deferred
If you are deployed to a combat zone while making installment payments on an IRS debt then you can defer your payments without penalty or interest. You can defer payments for the duration of your deployment, plus 180 days. This can give you a breather and hopefully a chance to catch up with your financial obligations. That said, you may be able to continue your payments without as much financial problems due to the increased pay you will receive while deployed (tax free pay, hostile fire pay, per diem, and possible other pay). To defer your payments, you will need to contact the IRS office you are making payments to and work with them to set up the new plan.
Need More Info? See the IRS Regs or Speak with a Tax Pro
Tax returns can get more complicated if you have a family and file a joint tax return with your spouse. In most cases, your spouse will get the same extension as you. The deadline only applies to individual taxes and income from a small business when taxed as a sole proprietor. These extensions do not apply to you if you have a business taxed as an LLC, S-Corp, Corporation, and some other small business entities.
Each case is unique, so you want to use this page for general guidelines. Always do your own research and consult with the IRS regulations (see IRS pub 3, linked above). The IRS also has a dedicated military tax extension page on their website with FAQs. Finally, if in doubt, consult with a CPA, IRS Registered Agent, or other tax pro. Taxes are one area where it is worth it to pay for professional advice.
Additional military tax resources
- Most military members are eligible for free tax preparation.
- Many military members who deployed are eligible for the Heroes Earned Retirement Opportunities Act (Heroes Act), which gives military members the opportunity to contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA, even if all of their income was earned in a tax free zone and was not considered earned income.
- Was your military pay and benefits taxable or non-taxable? Check out these resources: Taxable Military Income and Non-Taxable Military Income.
The military pay system is full of rules that are specific to military members and many of them can have an affect on your taxes. When in doubt, contact a tax professional for more information regarding your specific situation!