Ten Ways to Simplify Tax Time

Story by Rosemary Freitas Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy

Photo: Rosemary Freitas Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy

Rosemary Freitas Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy

When it comes to tax time, a little preparation can go a long way.  Taking the time to get things organized can mean the difference between an easy process and a big headache.  Consider these tips for preparing for tax season, and create a smoother tax-filing experience in 2014:

  1. Of course, visit Military OneSource.  We’ve got tax counselors available to answer your tax questions year-round at no cost to you.  But first…
  2. Start a file to gather all of the documents you will need into one place.  You can go a step further and create one now for next year’s taxes to file important papers all year long.
  3. Create a checklist of all of the documents you will need, such as receipts for child care expenses and other qualifying expenses, W-2’s, bank and investment statements, Form 1099’s, and property and car tax bills. Check them off as you collect them so you will know what you have left to gather and won’t miss anything.
  4. Add up your charitable donations. Be sure to factor in the fair market value of items you may have donated, and don’t forget your monetary donations as well.
  5. Know your family’s personal information. You will need Social Security numbers and dates of birth for all of your dependents, as well as your spouse.
  6. Start and maintain a list of questions you have about your taxes to ask a tax professional at Military OneSource or with your installation’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program if you have one.
  7. If you or your spouse is deployed or deploying, remember that you may have relief from the April 15 tax filing deadline:  The Internal Revenue Service and state departments of revenue allow an extension of the tax-filing deadline for service members deployed to a combat zone.  If you are deployed and serving in a combat zone on April 15, you will receive an extension to file your taxes of 180 days plus the number of days you were deployed prior to the April 15 deadline.
  8. Not only are service members entitled to an extended filing deadline when deployed, military pay earned during deployment may be exempt from taxes as well, depending on the deployed location.   Your command can assist with questions about tax-exempt pay.
  9. Remember that some commercial tax preparation services off the installation may advertise “refund anticipation loans” as a way to get your income tax refund without having to wait the typical 10 to 20 days for the Internal Revenue Service to issue it directly.  A tax preparer will file your tax return and loan you the amount of your anticipated refund immediately, but they will add processing and handling fees for preparing your taxes.  An $89 processing fee for a $1,000 tax refund is like paying an annual percentage rate of 250 percent on your loan.   The Military Lending Act protects service members and families from such abusive financial practices.
  10. Take advantage of the tax preparation and filing services available to you and your family through Military OneSource.  Military OneSource offers no-cost tax services with counselors who have expertise in the special tax considerations affecting military families.  The no-cost preparation and filing service is easy to navigate and comes with a 100 percent accuracy guarantee.  In 2013, nearly 218,000 Federal and State tax returns were completed by service and family members utilizing Military OneSource tax return services.

Tax time doesn’t have to be difficult. Getting organized and using the services offered through Military OneSource can make this your easiest tax-filing experience yet. Visit the website or call 800-342-9647 to speak with a tax counselor today.

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Ten Ways to Simplify Tax Time