How to Win at Tax Season in 2023
Mar 1, 2023 | 4 min. read
These five tips will help with filing your military tax return.
T’is the season – tax season, that is. That means it’s time to get your records in order and map out a plan to hit the filing deadline. The good news for military families is that they are entitled to free tax preparation services offered by a number of well-known organizations.
These free services are available to active-duty military members and their families regardless of rank or location. Service members should bring their military ID, W-2 form and other relevant tax documents to their initial meeting.
The IRS also offers special tax considerations for military members, including combat pay exclusion, extended filing deadlines and special accommodations for deployment.
5 Tips for Military Members Filing Their Taxes
According to the IRS, over 70 percent of Americans receive an annual tax refund. If you’re lucky enough to be one of them, the last thing you want to do is delay the processing of your return – and the refund that may be coming your way – because of an easily-avoidable mistake. Here are five tips to keep errors at bay, ensure the safety of your information and make sure you’re in the know on all things tax-related.
- Submit your tax returns electronically. Tax returns submitted electronically are much more likely to be accurate than paper returns and offer easy tax filing solutions. In fact, according to the IRS, more than 20 percent of paper returns have math errors, compared to less than one percent of electronic returns. Electronic filing programs not only handle calculations, but they prompt you to enter information and assist you with finding deductions and credits. Best of all, the turnaround on e-filing is about two weeks. And while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for direct deposit with the IRS – it’s the fastest way to get your refund, and it eliminates the possibility of mail fraud.
- Update Social Security records. Any name listed on your return – whether it’s yours, your spouse’s or your children’s – needs to exactly match what the Social Security Administration (SSA) has on record. You can view your Social Security statement online by opening a my Social Security Account. And if a family member has opted to change their name due to marriage or divorce, make sure they have also notified the SSA.
- Pay attention to signature lines. Signing your tax return sounds like another no-brainer, but believe it or not, this is a common reason for processing delays. If you’re filing jointly, remember that each spouse’s signature is required. This can be problematic for military families when the service member is deployed, but if the spouse has a valid power of attorney to attach to the return, then he or she can sign for the service member. IRS Form 2848 can also be used for this purpose. E-filing is another effective option, since you will be guided on who, where and when to sign. In addition, you can use a PIN as your electronic signature.
- Protect your personal information. IRS.gov offers an abundance of information about potential scams and how to avoid them, but the biggest takeaway is the IRS will never contact you by email, text or social media – their first point of contact will always be via U.S. mail. In addition, the IRS will never demand immediate payment or threaten to contact local law enforcement. If you receive a dubious phone call, the best course of action is to hang up and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. If you receive a suspicious email, do not reply or click on any links – simply forward it to email@example.com.
- Follow the IRS on social media. We concede that their accounts may not have the same buzz as those of Ariana Grande or Doug the Pug, but you may be surprised. The IRS rolled out its new Instagram account (IRSNews) in 2018, and it’s full of fun, colorful images with easy-to-digest information. There’s also a wealth of information on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, including tax tips in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
As a supplement to the above tips, keep First Command’s complimentary Tax Facts At-A-Glance guide handy as you begin to gather information for easy tax filing. You’ll find a tax rate schedule for both single and married-filing-jointly taxpayers, up-to-date information on standard deductions, contribution limits for retirement savings accounts like the TSP and Traditional and Roth IRAs and more.
The biggest mistake most military tax filers make is waiting until the last minute. Don’t fall into that trap! It only adds to the stress of tax season. Instead, get a head start by gathering up the documents you’ll need now, choosing one of the free tax preparation services mentioned above and following the common sense advice provided in our “5 Tips for Military Members Filing Their Taxes.”
First Command does not provide legal or tax advice, and this report does not contain any legal or tax advice. Should you require legal or tax advice, you should consult with your attorney or tax advisor. The information provided to you herein is provided for informational purposes only, is not intended to be tax advice, and should not be used for the purpose of avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.
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