Free Tax Filing and Preparation for Military Members

Military members have access to a variety of free tax-return filing options, including software and in-person tax preparation services through on-base Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs.
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free military tax filingU.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Gordon.
Table of Contents
  1. Free Tax-Preparation Eligibility
  2. Free Tax Service On Base – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
  3. Free Tax-Preparation Software for Military Members
    1. Military OneSource
    2. TaxSlayer
    3. TurboTax
    4. IRS Free File
    5. File Taxes Free With TurboTax
    6. File Taxes Free With H&R Block
    7. File Taxes Free With TaxAct
    8. File Taxes Free With FreeTaxUSA
    9. Other Tax Software Options for Military Members to File Their Tax Returns
  4. Filing Taxes Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult or Expensive

One of the lesser-known benefits of military service is access to free tax-filing and preparation services. 

There are several options for military personnel to file their taxes for free, including preparation assistance and personal software to prepare and file your own taxes. Some local communities also offer free tax preparation assistance and services without cost.

Free Tax-Preparation Eligibility

It’s important to read the fine print. Not every option listed is available to everyone. 

For example, tax preparation on base is often limited to active-duty members and their families. Eligibility may be extended to members of the National Guard or Reserves, retirees and their families and civilian personnel, depending on available resources.

Eligibility may also vary depending on your military status. Many software solutions use your W-2 to verify your military status or determine the discount you are eligible for.  Some options for filing your taxes for free are available based on income or on the forms you need.

Several tax-prep software solutions offer free versions covering basic forms. Some also offer free versions if your adjusted gross income — income after adjusting for applicable tax deductions — is below a certain level. The free versions of software are typically online.

Free Tax Service On Base – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

free tax preparation for military
You can get free tax filing help on base.

Most major military installations offer a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) office, and there are also VITA locations off site in many communities.

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Guardians, as well as their families are eligible to receive this free tax-preparation assistance through VITA.

Reservists, Guardsmen, retirees and some civilian personnel may also be eligible, depending on the location and available resources.

Participating VITA sites provide free tax advice, preparation and assistance. Volunteers are trained to deal with military tax situations, including:

VITA sites are IRS-certified and are usually supervised by Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).For more information, contact your base VITA or information office or visit the IRS website.

Free Tax-Preparation Software for Military Members

If you prefer to do your own taxes, several free options are available to file your taxes online.

Military OneSource

The Department of Defense’s Military OneSource offers MilTax. The suite of free tax services includes preparation and e-filing software, personalized support from tax consultants and current information about filing taxes. It’s designed to address the realities of military life, including deployments, combat and training pay, housing, rentals and multi-state filings.

To access MilTax, log in from the MilitaryOne Source home page. MilTax software will be available from Jan. 24, 2022, when the IRS tax season opens, through mid-October. You can use the software to file one federal return and up to three state returns (good for military members who change state residency in a tax year).

TaxSlayer

TaxSlayer offers free federal and state e-filing for active-duty military personnel, with no income limitations. Visit their site for more info.

TurboTax

Intuit’s TurboTax offers free federal and state tax filings for active-duty military and Reservists (E1 through E9). You can find it here.

For more details, read our TurboTax review or our article about the TurboTax military discount.

IRS Free File

The Internal Revenue Service offers Free File Fillable Forms for those whose adjusted gross income (AGI) is above $73,000 for the 2021 tax year. This online software is essentially an electronic version of the IRS forms and does not offer assistance like what you’ll find with  popular tax software programs, such as Intuit’s TurboTax, H&R Block, etc.

Taxpayers whose AGI is  $73,000 or less for the 2021 tax year can take advantage of IRS Free File. They can use software from one of the participating companies to help them prepare their taxes for free.

IRS Free File is available beginning Jan. 14, 2022 for the 2021 tax year.

Companies Participating in the IRS Free File Program

Eight companies are taking part in the IRS Free File program for the 2021 tax season, with all including military personnel’s filings: 1040NOW Corp., ezTaxReturn, FileYourTaxes, Free Tax Returns, OnLine Taxes, TaxAct, TaxHawk and TaxSlayer.

Each company’s eligibility rules differ (including for AGI limitations), and there may be additional charges for state taxes.

Not everyone is eligible for the Free File option, which includes a limited number of forms. If you have investments or rental properties, operate a small business or face other unique or more complicated situations, you may need to purchase a more deluxe version instead.

File Taxes Free With TurboTax

TurboTax Military

Intuit’s TurboTax is intuitive, 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 IRS forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ. TurboTax also offers free tax returns (or a discount on premium versions) for all enlisted military members.

File Taxes Free With H&R Block

H&R Block Tax Return

H&R Block is easy to navigate and use.

The H&R Block online’s free program guides you through a simple, standardized federal tax return to help ensure your taxes are done correctly. You might need a more premium version if your return is more complicated.

File Taxes Free With TaxAct

TaxAct

TaxAct offers a free federal version and three paid versions. While state returns are offered, there is a separate charge. 

TaxAct guides you through each step, helping review your tax returns before filing.

File Taxes Free With FreeTaxUSA

FreeTaxUSA provides a Free File program for federal taxes and a Deluxe Edition for $6.99 per return. There is a $14.99 charge for state tax returns.

FreeTaxUSA’s Free File program covers all simple forms of income, deductions and credits.

FreeTaxUSA Logo

Other Tax Software Options for Military Members to File Their Tax Returns

TSeveral other companies offer quality tax software. The following links are to reviews on our site with more details:

Filing Taxes Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult or Expensive

However you choose to file your taxes, use these tips for organizing your documents to help things go more smoothly

You may also use this tax-refund schedule to find out when can expect your refund.

If you have been deployed or need more time to file your return, then consider filing a tax extension request. Make certain you then file your return by October 17, 2022. You may have a different deadline if you were deployed.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Jean barron says

    I retired from the KY ARNG after 18 AD AF, 4 years in the guard. I was awarded E-6 in the USAF and took E-5 to join the guard. My rank at retirement was E-5. I was E-6 for 3+ years. Am I not entitled to E-6 retirement pay? Or, am I confusing the two ranks per branch?
    Thank you very much.
    Keep up the great job on your newsletters.!

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Jean,

      This is a great question. I think the answer depends on how your rank was transferred when you entered into the ARNG. I believe there are some fine points when changing branches. That said, I would certainly look into this. I would start by contacting your state National Guard Bureau to see if they have answers. If that doesn’t work, you may need to go to the Army HRC. They can review your personnel file and give you an answer based on your specific circumstances.

      Best wishes!

  2. william c. perry says

    To: Ryan Guina-Militarywallet

    I have a service connected disability (*80% rating*) while serving in the US Marines in the early 1960’s. Under some recent bills passed in 2020/2019 regarding service connected disability veterans would I qualify for any benefits regarding free income tax assistance for local and federal returns????

    Wm. Perry—-March 17,21

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello William,

      Thank you for your question. The free tax return services are outlined in the article.  If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $69,000 or less, then you should qualify for the IRS free e-file program. Many of the leading tax software companies offer this service free of charge. However, this is a do-it-yourself option and requires you to use the program and do your tax return on your own. 

      Most in-person tax services do not offer free tax return services, as they need to be compensated for their time.  However, you may be able to find an IRS VITA Grant Program participant where you can get your taxes done for you free of charge. Simply search for “IRS VITA Grant Program” in your favorite search engine.

      I wish you the best!

  3. Beau says

    Yeah Taxslayer says $29 but when we did ours it was only $23 after they applied a discount to the state and federal portion.

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