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Tax guidelines for the military

Formation of Marines, focus on woman Marine | iStock.com

Being a member of the armed forces includes many challenges, including filing taxes. U.S. military personnel, whether on active duty or reserve service, must follow the country's general tax rules.

Military personnel tax duties, however, can sometimes be more complicated than those faced by civilians. There are different types of income that servicemen and women receive, as well as frequent moves to posts, both domestic and overseas.

Plus, the issue of combat affects not only families, but also military members' taxes.

Here's an overview of some issues concerning military taxes, along with tips on how to deal with them.

And thank you for serving our country!

When to file

Members of the military must meet the April tax deadline. Service personnel also have the same option as civilian taxpayers to postpone sending in 1040s until mid-October.

Obtaining an extension, however, differs depending on where military taxpayers are stationed.

If you're posted in the United States or Puerto Rico, you can get a 6-month filing extension by sending IRS Form 4868 by the April due date.

However, servicemen and women stationed abroad for the entire tax year automatically get 2 more months, until June 15, to file their returns. If they then need the additional 4 months to file, overseas service members should submit Form 4868 by the June date.

Also, regardless of where stationed, extensions are granted to file forms, not to make payments. Depending on your posting, interest and penalties could be assessed on taxes not paid by the deadline.

Combat zone filing extension

Service personnel in a combat zone get added time to file their returns.

Generally, a service member can postpone filing their taxes for 180 days after the end of their tour in a combat zone.

This extension also applies to military personnel who are hospitalized because of their combat zone service. In these medical cases, they have up to 180 days after the last day of continuous hospitalization to file or pay taxes.

In addition to the 180 days, the deadline is extended by the number of days that were left for the service member to file when he or she entered a combat zone. For example, if the service member had 20 more days to file when called to combat, the deadline to file is 200 days after the tour ends.

Plus, unlike other service members' filing deadlines, the combat zone filing extension also applies to the payment of any due tax. During the allowable combat extension period, service personnel will not be charged interest or penalties attributable to the delayed deadline.

Where to file

If you e-file, your tax software will take care of your return's delivery. However, if you mail a paper return, where you send it also depends on your posting.

Personnel at a domestic base should send federal tax returns and payments to the IRS center that processes materials for that location. For example, if you are stationed in Texas but your permanent residence is in California, you would send your return to the service center for Texas.

If you are overseas and have an APO or FPO address, file your return with the IRS center assigned to that APO or FPO address.

State tax filing

The variety of postings that service personnel face sometimes contributes to state tax confusion. A service member may be a resident of 1 state and a domiciliary of another state.

The distinction is important. The federal Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act allows military members to keep the state from which they entered military service as their official home or domicile. Only the state that is a service member's official domicile can tax the military income and personal property of someone on active military duty.

That means from a legal standpoint, the military member's domicile is often more important than the place in which he or she is physically stationed.

Being a member of the armed forces includes many challenges, including filing taxes. U.S. military personnel, whether on active duty or reserve service, must follow the country's general tax rules.

Military personnel tax duties, however, can sometimes be more complicated than those faced by civilians. There are different types of income that servicemen and women receive, as well as frequent moves to posts, both domestic and overseas.

Plus, the issue of combat affects not only families, but also military members' taxes.

Here's an overview of some issues concerning military taxes, along with tips on how to deal with them.

And thank you for serving our country!

When to file

Members of the military must meet the April tax deadline. Service personnel also have the same option as civilian taxpayers to postpone sending in 1040s until mid-October.

Obtaining an extension, however, differs depending on where military taxpayers are stationed.

If you're posted in the United States or Puerto Rico, you can get a 6-month filing extension by sending IRS Form 4868 by the April due date.

However, servicemen and women stationed abroad for the entire tax year automatically get 2 more months, until June 15, to file their returns. If they then need the additional 4 months to file, overseas service members should submit Form 4868 by the June date.

Also, regardless of where stationed, extensions are granted to file forms, not to make payments. Depending on your posting, interest and penalties could be assessed on taxes not paid by the deadline.

Combat zone filing extension

Service personnel in a combat zone get added time to file their returns.

Generally, a service member can postpone filing their taxes for 180 days after the end of their tour in a combat zone.

This extension also applies to military personnel who are hospitalized because of their combat zone service. In these medical cases, they have up to 180 days after the last day of continuous hospitalization to file or pay taxes.

In addition to the 180 days, the deadline is extended by the number of days that were left for the service member to file when he or she entered a combat zone. For example, if the service member had 20 more days to file when called to combat, the deadline to file is 200 days after the tour ends.

Plus, unlike other service members' filing deadlines, the combat zone filing extension also applies to the payment of any due tax. During the allowable combat extension period, service personnel will not be charged interest or penalties attributable to the delayed deadline.

Where to file

If you e-file, your tax software will take care of your return's delivery. However, if you mail a paper return, where you send it also depends on your posting.

Personnel at a domestic base should send federal tax returns and payments to the IRS center that processes materials for that location. For example, if you are stationed in Texas but your permanent residence is in California, you would send your return to the service center for Texas.

If you are overseas and have an APO or FPO address, file your return with the IRS center assigned to that APO or FPO address.

State tax filing

The variety of postings that service personnel face sometimes contributes to state tax confusion. A service member may be a resident of 1 state and a domiciliary of another state.

The distinction is important. The federal Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act allows military members to keep the state from which they entered military service as their official home or domicile. Only the state that is a service member's official domicile can tax the military income and personal property of someone on active military duty.

That means from a legal standpoint, the military member's domicile is often more important than the place in which he or she is physically stationed.

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