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 to prepare your own taxes and file your taxes online. 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.
Free Tax Preparation Eligibility
It’s important to read the fine print. Not every option listed on this page 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 Guard or Reserves, retirees and their families, and civilian personnel, depending on available resources.
Eligibility for the software options listed on this page may also vary depending on your military status. Many of the software solutions use your W2 to verify your military status or determine the amount of the discount you are eligible to receive. So you would need to have your recent W2 in order to qualify for the discount.
Finally, some of the options for filing your taxes for free are made available based on the forms you need, or on your income.
Several tax prep software companies offer a free version that covers basic forms. They may also offer a free version if your Adjusted Gross Income is below a certain threshold. The free versions of software are almost always the online versions.
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, and their families worldwide are eligible to receive free tax preparation assistance at offices within their installations.
Reserve members, Guardsmen, 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 other items found within the Armed Forces Tax Guide.
To top it off, the work is usually signed off on by a CPA before it is filed.
Call your 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:
- Several years ago, TurboTax created a software program specifically for military members. They eventually rolled the military features into their main version.
- There is currently a free version for junior enlisted, and a discount for senior enlisted and officers.
- Read our TurboTax review or our article about the TurboTax Military Discount for more information.
- offers MilTax – a suite of free tax services for the military, including easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software, personalized support from tax consultants, and current information about filing taxes in the military. It’s designed to address the realities of military life – including deployments, combat and training pay, housing, rentals, and multistate filings.
- 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).
- Offers free state and federal e-filing for military personnel. Visit their site for more info.
IRS Free File:
- This is available to taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $64,000 or less. This software is essentially just electronic versions of the IRS forms and does not offer any assistance found on popular software programs, such as TurboTax, H&R Block, etc.
- I recommend using one of the commercial software programs, as they are easier to use. They ensure you don’t miss any potential credits or deductions, and make it easy to file online and track your return.
Note: most companies that offer a free version of their software only cover the basic tax forms. More complex tax returns may require an upgrade. This even applies to the Free File options provided by the IRS.
If you find additional companies, please contact me 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 for free and save your work as you go. If your situation is more complicated than the free version supports, then you can upgrade to a higher plan without losing your work.
File Taxes Free 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, 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, and 1040EZ. TurboTax also offers free tax returns (or a discount on premium versions) for all military members in pay grades E-1 through E-5. They also offer a discount on all versions for military members E-6 and up.
- Learn more about the TurboTax military discount.
You may have to upgrade to one of the more premium versions if your tax return is more complicated. But the cool thing is TurboTax allows everyone to start their tax return for free. If you need to upgrade to a higher version, they will let you know before you go to file. You only pay when you file your tax return.
File Taxes Free with H&R Block
H&R Block 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.
Like TurboTax and many other tax software services, you may need to pay for a more premium version if your tax return is more complicated.
- Learn more about H&R Block in our Review.
- File your federal tax return free with H&R Block At Home®.
File Taxes Free with TaxAct
TaxAct offers a free file federal version and a paid version.
They also have a version for each state (There is a charge for state tax returns – however, there is a $5 discount for State File for U.S. Armed Forces with Qualifying Employer Identification Number).
The process is easy – simply go through the tax software program and fill in your information each step of the way, review your return, then file it.
File Taxes Free with FreeTaxUSA
Free File with FreeTaxUSA:
FreeTaxUsa provides a Free File program for federal taxes and an inexpensive Deluxe Edition for $6.99 per return. There is a $12.95 charge for state tax returns.
FreeTaxUSA’s Free File program covers all simple forms of income, deductions, and credits. Check out the FreeTaxUSA site for more details.
File Taxes Free with esmart Tax
Free File with esmart Tax:
esmart Tax through Liberty Tax offers a Free File program for federal taxes, along with a variety of paid versions.
Along with promising a 100% accuracy guarantee, esmart Tax’s Free software is ideal for basic return filing in conjunction with basic 1040 tax forms and Schedule B.
Users can not only import their W-2 information, but can also access their previous year’s return results while downloading ACA forms.
File Taxes Free with Jackson Hewitt
Free File with Jackson Hewitt:
Jackson Hewitt offers a Free File program for federal taxes ideal for first-time taxpayers. Users may also choose from a variety of paid versions for more complicated tax returns.
For inexperienced filers, Jackson Hewitt’s Free File program is like a breath of fresh air, providing step-by-step training, secure data storage, and filing instructions in layman’s terms.
No matter which software a user chooses, Jackson Hewitt guarantees accurate tax return calculations and assumes liability for any IRS-imposed penalties.
Other Tax Software Options for Military Members to File Their Tax Return
These other companies offer quality tax software. Most of the following links are to reviews on our site where you can learn about each program in more detail:
- Credit Karma Tax (link to Credit Karma site)
- e-File Review
- Easy Tax Return Review
- Liberty Tax Review
Filing Taxes Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult – or Expensive!
However you choose to file your taxes, I hope you are able to get your taxes prepared and filed with few hassles. Use these tips for organizing your tax documents to help the process go more smoothly. You may also wish to use this tax refund schedule to find out when you might expect to receive your refund.
Finally, if you have been deployed, or haven’t had enough time to file your tax return, then you should look into filing a tax extension to delay filing your tax return. Just be sure to file your return by October 15th (you may have a different deadline if you were deployed).