Tax Tips for Military Spouses
As a military spouse tax time can be a bit stressful to say the least.
There are regular tax questions:
What are the new changes to tax law?
What can I deduct?
Who can I claim?
Then there is an entirely new set of questions because you're a spouse of a service member:
How do I file our joint return with my service member deployed?
What state do I file my taxes in?
What benefits are we allowed as military?
To answer most of the commonly asked questions the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has an Armed Forces' Tax Guide available for download - IRS Publication 3, which summarizes many important military-related tax topics. Publication 3 may also be ordered by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Prior to 2009 there wasn't much relief for military spouses. They generally had to pay income taxes to the states where their spouses were stationed. Under the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act signed into law on November 11, 2009, military spouses can choose to be treated as if they still lived in their previous state. That could generate big savings if their previous state has lower tax rates — or no income tax at all.
Tax laws vary from state to state, so you and your spouse will need to weigh the tax and filing benefits before selecting the state that you will file. Some other factors that could also influence which state to pick; voter registration, auto registration, in-state college savings plans and in-state college tuition savings, car, home or other insurance, wills and estate plans, powers of attorney, and spouse's business/professional licenses.
If your spouse is deployed, remember that you have 24/7 access to W2 and other pertinent tax information via MyPay. Additionally, typically joint returns must be signed by both spouses. However, if your service member is away from home, they can grant you power of attorney to file a joint return on their behalf.
Fortunately, most military installations offer tax help to service members and their families through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). VITA's certified community volunteers are trained by the IRS and understand military-specific tax issues. Those services can be accessed for free via your local installation. You also have the option of filing yourself, also at no cost with expert help, via Military One Source with H&R Block at Home®.
Other resources for reference:
Ten Tips to Ease Tax Time for Military Personnel - IRS
Top Tax Tips for Military Personnel – Military.com
Summary of S. 475, Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, Public Law No. 11197
Tara Crooks, or "Household 6" in the Crooks' family, is best known for her ability to motivate and empower others. Tara's journey with the military began in 1998 when she and her husband PCS'd to their first duty station, Ft Hood. She and her husband, Kevin (US ARMY), have two beautiful little girls, Wrena and Chloe. Their family, including two dogs and a cat, is all snuggled in their cozy home in Fort Sill, Okla.
Tara currently writes columns for several military publications, including www.military.com. She is the host of Army Wife Talk Radio and cofounder of the popular website www.ArmyWifeNetwork.com. Army Wife Network is interactive empowerment for Army wives. Featuring Army Wife Talk Radio the original internet talk radio program for military wives, "Field Problems" a self-syndicated question and answer column for military families, "Field Exercises" live interactive events for military spouses, Loving A Soldier blog, featured columns, and a robust Facebook community.
In Nov 2011, Tara also coauthored the book 1001 Things To Love About Military Life. To find out more about Tara visit her blog,www.TaraCrooks.com.
Listen to the latest edition of Tara's T.A.L.E. an exclusive podcast found right here at military.com. Tara's T.A.L.E. - Talking. Advising. Learning. Empowering. A Monthly Podcast Sharing Resources, Tips, Conversation, and Encouragement For The Military Family.
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Tara Crooks writes columns for several military publications, and is the host of Army Wife Talk Radio and cofounder of the popular website www.ArmyWifeNetwork.com. Army Wife Network is interactive empowerment for Army wives. Featuring Army Wife Talk Radio the original internet talk radio program for military wives, "Field Problems" a self-syndicated question and answer column for military families, "Field Exercises" live interactive events for military spouses, Loving A Soldier blog, featured columns, and a robust Facebook community. To find out more about Tara visit her blog, www.TaraCrooks.com and listen to Tara's T.A.L.E. her exclusive podcasts on Military.com.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect current programs and tax laws. Military service men and women, who recently enrolled in continuing education programs or signed up for skill... more.