Edmonds Military Wire: Free tax help for military personnel and their families

By Michael Schindler

It is that time of year – nope, not March Madness yet…tax time. In addition to Edmonds’ Military Veterans Promotion network participant Puget Sound Tax Services, located at 514 5th Ave. S., the IRS also offers free tax return preparation assistance for eligible military members and their spouses.

The IRS and U.S. Armed Forces participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax advice, tax preparation, return filing and other tax assistance to military members and their families.
Here are five things you need to know about free military tax assistance:

1. Armed Forces Tax Council The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide, conducting outreach with the IRS to military personnel and their families. The AFTC consists of tax program coordinators for the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard.
2. Volunteer tax sites Volunteer assistors at military-based VITA sites are trained to address military-specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the Earned Income Tax Credit guidelines.

3. What to bring To receive free tax assistance bring the following records to your military VITA site:
-Valid photo identification
-Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
-Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents
-Wage and earning statement(s) like Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R
-Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099)
-A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available
-Checkbook for routing and account numbers for direct deposit
-Total amount paid for day care and day care provider’s identifying number
-Other relevant information about income and expenses
4. Joint returns If your filing status is Married Filing Jointly and you wish to file your tax return electronically, both you and your spouse should be present to sign the required forms. If it isn’t possible for both of you to be present, a valid power of attorney that allows tax preparation can be used to sign and file the return.

5. Special exception There is a special exception to using a power of attorney for spouses in combat zones. The exception allows  the filing spouse to e-file a joint return with only a written statement stating the other spouse is in a combat zone and unable to sign.
For more information, review IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, available on the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov or order a free copy by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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