Free Tax Filing and Preparation for Military Members

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Free Tax Return Preparation for Military
Military members have access to a variety of free tax return filing options, including free tax software and in-person tax preparation services through the on-base VITA program.
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. MilitaryOneSource.com:
    2. Taxslayer.com:
    3. TurboTax Military Edition:
    4. IRS Free File:
  4. Companies Participating in the IRS Free File Program
    1. File Taxes Free with TurboTax
    2. File Taxes Free with H&R Block
    3. File Taxes Free with TaxAct
    4. File Taxes Free with FreeTaxUSA
    5. File Taxes Free with Jackson Hewitt
    6. Other Tax Software Options for Military Members to File Their Tax Return
  5. Filing Taxes Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult – or Expensive!

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 the software are almost always the online versions.

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 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:

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.

MilitaryOneSource.com:

  • 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).

Taxslayer.com:

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 all enlisted members, which you can find here.
  • Read our TurboTax review or our article about the TurboTax Military Discount for more information.

IRS Free File:

  • This is available to taxpayers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $69,000 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.
  • If you qualify based on income, 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 Military

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, 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 enlisted military members.

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 Tax Return

Free File 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.

File Taxes Free with TaxAct

TaxAct

Free File with TaxAct & Military Discount: 

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 Logo

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 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:

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).

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL 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.

  4. ERIN says

    It says this was updated for 2019 but just wanted to let you know, Taxslayer is not free state filing for 2019, it is $29 per state.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Norman, Thank you for contacting me. The free on-base tax preparation is limited to active duty and retirees. But several tax software companies offer free tax preparation if your Adjusted Gross Income falls below a certain amount or if you don’t have a complex tax return (their free versions usually only support a limited number of forms unless you qualify based on income).

      You can usually start your tax return for free, then upgrade only if you don’t qualify for the free version. TurboTax or H&R Block are both excellent software programs, but all of the options on this page should meet most needs. Best of luck, and thank you for your service!

  5. Ken says

    I’m trying to help a couple of veterans to not miss out on a substantial tax credit for a grid tied photovoltaic system. They have not filed tax returns with the IRS for several years. My questions are: Are VA benefits taxable? Are VA disability benefits taxable? Is there tax withholding in VA benefit checks? If a veteran fails to file a tax return are they missing out on a refund check? If a veteran has not filed a tax return for years, and then finally does, what are the repercussions? Can a veteran who has not income tax liability receive the tax credits available for the cost of a solar water heating or photovoltaic system?

    • John S says

      VA Disability payments are not taxable and they will not receive any tax documents from the VA either. It is invisible money to the IRS.

  6. Juli says

    A couple of years ago I claimed 3 of my grandchildren on my taxes. Over a year later the IRS audited my. 2 of the grandchildren lived w/me for 2 years. Their mother abandoned them, their father is my daughter’s Common Law husband. Not recognized in WI. They were all living in my home, Jade {daughter}, Pat {husband} and 5 children. The IRS decided that since the kid’s last name doesn’t match mine {they’re not blood related} I can not claim them. I’ve sent everything. Copies of the drivers’ licenses w/my address. Letters, birth certificates showing Pat as their father. The IRS wants over $4,000.00 back, originally it was over $5,000.00. They admitted a mistake in the audit. How do I fight this? I don’t have over $500.00 to hire a tax attorney. I am a disabled veteran. These children are mine to claim. I have been their grandma for over 9 years now.

  7. M J Mueller says

    For those with tax problems, especially if the IRS has contacted you about late returns or collection issues the service has a separate office available “Taxpayers Advocates Office” in most major cities that offer help in areas that you appear to be caught in a loop without any resolve. They can put a stay on almost any type of enforcement action allowing time to resolve the issue. You must have been dealing with a service employee without any satisfaction before they will assist you. Keep records of all communications. [former agent]

  8. Melissa Kemp says

    I am now as of April 2012 disable VA . Thank you Ryan, for your invitation. I with the help of HNR Block owe for the first time. On top of that my husband files seperate and owed $ in 2009 in 2010 he owes more. I have know idea which way to run. I do know at this point I cannot let it go. Can they help us?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Thanks for sharing the IRS link, Romeo – I noticed it was updated the day after I published this, so the updated info for the current tax season wasn’t live at the time we published this!

      The main difference with using the IRS freefile forms is that it doesn’t come with software support from one of the major tax software companies (which are guided and often easier to use, especially if you have investments, property, a business, etc.).

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