Some Troops Qualify for Extended Tax Filing Deadline
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 1, 2011 Service members serving outside of the United States -- including those supporting operations in Libya and Japan -- will receive an automatic two-month tax filing extension this year, officials said.
This extension is in addition to the nation’s already extended deadline. Due to Emancipation Day, a holiday recognized by the District of Columbia, government officials have pushed the nation’s tax filing deadline from April 15 to April 18.
Deployed service members already receive an automatic 180-day extension from the last day served in the deployed location, plus the number of days remaining to file before entering that location, officials said. This extension includes filing taxes or paying them, and interest doesn’t accrue on any taxes owed.
However, several operations don’t qualify for the 180-day extension, officials said, including Operation Tomodachi in Japan and operations in Libya. Instead, service members supporting these operations are entitled to receive a two-month extension, pushing the tax filing deadline to June 15. Also eligible are service members serving outside of the United States, and U.S. citizens and residents living and working outside of the United States.
Service members and their spouses who file a joint return both qualify for the extension, but if filing separately, each spouse must qualify separately.
Taxpayers eligible for the extension should keep in mind that the extension applies to filing and paying taxes, officials said. If taxes are owed, they still will accrue interest from the April 18 deadline. People who qualify for the two-month extension are still eligible even if physically present in the United States or Puerto Rico on April 18, officials added.
To use the extension, people must attach a statement to their return explaining which situation qualifies them for an extension, officials said. If filing at a military tax center, the tax preparer can enter the explanation on the electronic return.
All taxpayers can request a six-month extension to file if they can’t file by the April 18 due date by filing a Form 4868, which is available on the Internal Revenue Service website at http://www.irs.gov. They’ll have until Oct. 17 to file, but must pay any owed tax by April 18 or face penalties and interest charges.
People who qualify for the automatic two-month extension but need more time to file also may request an additional four months to file by filing a Form 4868 and checking Block 8: “Out of the country.” They’ll also have until Oct. 17 to file, but payment is still due on June 15, and if taxes are owed, the interest will accrue from April 18.
For tax preparation help, service members and their spouses have a host of free, expert tax-preparation services at their disposal, from on-base centers to online software, Army Lt. Col. Evan Stone, director of the Armed Forces Tax Council, told American Forces Press Service.
People can visit most any installation around the world for free, in-person tax-preparation assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, Stone said.
Service members and their families also can take advantage of free, online electronic tax filing services through Military OneSource. The customized program offers free federal filing and free filing for up to three states.
People can access the H&R Block at Home program by going to Military OneSource at http://www.militaryonesource.com/ and clicking on "Tax Filing Services.” For free tax-related phone consultations, people can call the Military OneSource Tax Hotline at 1-800-730-3802 seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EDT.
The online program is open to active-duty Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force personnel; Guard and Reserve service members regardless of activation status; as well as spouses, dependent children and family members standing in for a deployed service member.
Whether filing in person or online, Stone suggested people take advantage of the free advice offered at military tax centers.
“Even the simplest return may have issues or deductions or credits that a person might not be aware of,” he said.
For more on military-related tax laws, people should visit the Military OneSource website or the IRS website, which features a section for service members and their families.