The Internal Revenue Service is committed to helping military members, veterans and their families meet their federal income tax filing obligations.
Active duty or reserve members of the armed forces listed below may be eligible for military tax benefits. Recently retired or separated members may also be eligible for benefits.
- United States Army (including Army Reserve and Army National Guard)
- United States Navy (including Navy Reserve)
- United States Air Force (including Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard)
- United States Marine Corps (including Marine Corps Reserve)
- United States Coast Guard (including Coast Guard Reserve)
Below is a list of available resources:
IRS Free File
IRS Free File allows taxpayers to file their taxes for free. For those earning $69,000 or less during 2019, they qualify for free brand-name software offered through a partnership between the IRS and leading tax software providers. Some of these providers offer free federal and free state return preparation and electronic filing. For those making more than $69,000, they can use Free File Fillable Forms, electronic versions of IRS paper forms. This option is best for someone experienced in return preparation. Free File is a private-public partnership between the IRS and the Free File, Inc.
For active-duty military and their spouses, Free File has a special offer. Individuals and their families who meet the income limitation may choose from any of nine companies without regard to additional eligibility requirements. To access the right option, make sure to begin at IRS.gov/freefile or use the internet search term “IRS Free File Program.”
Military OneSource, a program offered by the Department of Defense provides a range of free resources for military members, veterans and their families. MilTax, Military OneSource’s tax service, provides online software to electronically file a federal and up to three state tax returns for free, regardless of income. Military OneSource is available online at MilitaryOneSource.mil or by calling 800-342-9647.
Free face-to-face tax preparation services by volunteers
Each year, millions of people have their taxes prepared for free by IRS-certified volunteers. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, now 50 years old, and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs have helped millions of taxpayers. Last year, over 100,000 free tax returns were prepared for military members and veterans at nearly 11,000 free tax preparation sites across the country, some located on military installations.
Here are some details about VITA and TCE:
- The IRS works with local community groups to train and certify VITA and TCE volunteers.
- VITA generally offers free tax return preparation to those who earned less than $56,000 in 2019.
- TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program through AARP Tax-Aide.
- VITA and TCE provide free electronic filing. E-filing is the safest, most accurate way to file a tax return. Taxpayers who combine electronic filing with direct deposit, get their refunds faster.
Special military tax rules
Active-duty military stationed in combat zones often have more time to file their tax returns. However, those with spouses and families may wish to file as soon as they are able to claim various tax benefits and get their refund. If only one spouse is present to file a joint return, they must have proper authorization to file a joint tax return on behalf of their spouse.
Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, now posted on IRS.gov, is packed with useful filing tips for any member of the military, including reservists and the National Guard, regardless of whether they are stationed in the U.S. or abroad.
Among other things, this free publication describes the provision allowing armed forces reservists to deduct their reservist-related travel expenses. It also describes the moving expense deduction still available to active-duty members of the military in connection with a change of station.
The publication covers the special benefits available to those serving in a combat zone, including the full or partial exclusion of combat pay and special rules for determining the IRA contribution limit.
Earned Income Tax Credit
Many military members are eligible for various tax credits including the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable federal income tax credit worth up to $6,557 for eligible taxpayers. The credits provide a tax break for eligible service members, allowing them to keep more of what they've earned.