One of the little known benefits of being in the military is access to free tax filing and preparation services. There are several options for military personnel to file their taxes for free, including free tax preparation assistance on base, and free tax prep software you can use online to file your taxes. Some local communities may also offer free tax preparation. We can’t cover each of the local opportunities, but we can let you know about how military members can get free tax preparation on their military installation or through many online tax software programs.
The options covered in this article are usually available to active duty, their families, and in some cases, retirees and their families and civilian personnel, depending on available resources.
Free Tax Service on Base – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
Most major military installations have a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) office. Marines, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Reserve members, Guardsmen, and their families worldwide are eligible to receive free tax preparation assistance at offices within their installations. Retirees and some civilian personnel may also be eligible, depending on the location and available resources.
Participating VITA sites provide free tax advice, tax preparation, and assistance to military members and their families. Most importantly, they are trained and equipped to address military specific tax issues such as non-taxable military income, tax-free zones, tax deadline extensions for military members, out of state residency issues, and more. To top it off, the work is usually signed off on by a CPA before it is filed.
Call you local base information office for more details.
Free Tax Preparation Software for Military Members
For those who prefer to do your own taxes, there are several options to e-file your taxes online – free of charge.
- TurboTax Military Edition. TurboTax created a software program specifically for military members. There is currently a free version for junior enlisted, and a discount for senior enlisted and officers. Read our full review for more information. Or visit the TurboTax Military Edition site.
- Militaryonesource.com offers a free version of H&R Block At Home®. You must click the link directly from the MilitaryOneSource home page and be logged into your account. This version features one federal return and up to 3 state returns (good for military members who change state residency in a tax year).
- Taxslayer.com offers free state and federal e-filing for military personnel.
- IRS Free File is available to taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $57,000 or less in 2011.
- TurboTax Freedom Edition, only available to those eligible for IRS Free File.
If you find additional companies, please contact me know and I will add them to the list.
Companies Participating in the IRS Free File Program
The following companies participate in the IRS Free File program. Note that each company may have slightly different eligibility rules and there may be an additional charge for state taxes. Each of these companies guarantees their software and offers Free File and free e-file, so you know your return will be filed with the IRS correctly and on time.
It’s also important to note that not everyone will be eligible for the Free File option – the Free File option only includes a limited number of forms. If you have a more complicated tax situation, or have a small business, complicated investments, rental properties, or other unique situations, you may be required to purchase one of these programs. With each of the programs you will be able to begin your tax return and upgrade without losing your work.
Free File with TurboTax: TurboTax is the company I have the most experience with as I have used their software for the last few years. The TurboTax software is intuitive and easy to use, and takes you step by step through your return, including various types of income, deductions, tax credits, and more. The TurboTax Free file program supports the following IRS forms: 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ.
- File your federal tax return free with TurboTax.
Free File with H&R Block At Home®: H&R Block At Home® is a guaranteed software program and easy to navigate and use. The H&R Block At Home® Free File Online program guides you through a simple, standardized federal tax return to help ensure your taxes are done correctly. The form is pre-selected and there are no forms to select.
- File your federal tax return free with H&R Block At Home®.
Free File with FreeTaxUSA: FreeTaxUsa provides a Free File program for those with an AGI under $57,000, and free state tax filing is available for those with an AGI below $20,000. For those not eligible for a free state return, the cost is a modest $9.95. FreeTaxUSA’s Free File program covers all simple forms of income, deductions, and credits. Check out the FreeTaxUSA site for more details.
- File your federal tax return with FreeTaxUsa.
However you choose to file your taxes, I hope you are able to get your taxes prepared and filed with few hassles. You may also wish to use this tax refund schedule to find out when you might expect to receive your refund.