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Filing guidelines for military personnel

If you are stationed overseas and have an APO or FPO address, file your return with the service center in Austin, Texas.

Combat zone special rules

Tax guidelines change dramatically, however, for soldiers and sailors in war settings.

If you're serving in a designated combat zone or hazardous duty area, much of your military pay and reimbursements will be exempt from federal income tax. For commissioned officers, the monthly exclusion is capped at the highest enlisted pay, plus any hostile fire or imminent danger pay received.

The military paymaster should take care of this delineation for you, but you can find a listing of exactly what type of compensation or benefit is deemed taxable or exempt in IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide.

You'll also automatically have later deadlines for filing tax returns, paying taxes, submitting refund claims or taking other actions with the IRS. The basic extension period is 180 days, but it might be lengthened depending upon when in the tax season you were shipped to a combat zone.

In determining your precise combat-related extension, start with the three and a half months (Jan. 1 to April 15) that each taxpayer has to file a return. Any days of this period that were left when you entered the combat zone or the entire filing period of 105 days if you entered the combat zone by Jan. 1, are added to the standard 180-day extension. You could potentially earn an extension of 285 days to complete your tax tasks.

You don't have to be in combat for this IRS rule to apply. If you are deployed to a region in support of but not directly involved in combat, you also receive the 180-day (or longer) extension. In addition, the deadline for the IRS to take certain actions, such as tax collection and examination of your returns, is extended and no penalties or interest will be imposed for not filing or paying taxes during this time.

Options
  • When filing returns, mark "Combat Zone" at the top of the form along with the date of deployment.
  • Contact the IRS at its special e-mail address combatzone@irs.gov. Correspondence should include the name, stateside address, date of birth and date of deployment of the service member. Do not, however, include your Social Security number in the e-mail. The IRS emphasizes only military-related e-mails should go to this address.
  • Call the main IRS help line at (800)829-1040.

The IRS works with the military to obtain information about reservists and regular military personnel serving in combat areas.

If, however, the IRS does not get up-to-date military status for filing purposes, service personnel, their spouses or their authorized representatives have several options to claim the filing extensions or filing exclusions:

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Service personnel serving in a combat zone (or their representatives) can also call or e-mail the IRS in cases where the military member (or his or her spouse) receives a tax notice. The notice can be deferred by following the e-mail steps or by sending the notice back to the IRS marked with the words "Combat Zone" in red ink and the date of deployment.

 

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