With the holidays now over, service members and their families might start looking toward another annual event, albeit one that generally garners far less excitement: filing taxes.
The Defense Department wants service members and their families to know they can get free tax consultations and tax-filing software through Military OneSource, according to Erika Slaton, program analyst for Military OneSource.
"The financial environment in which we live is very complex," Slaton said. "When you combine that with the realities of military life that includes frequent moves and deployments, it can present some special challenges for service members and their families."
The Defense Department, through Military OneSource, has teamed up, as it has in previous years, with H&R Block to offer the free tax services.
The services could save members and families hundreds of dollars, Slaton said. She encourages all those who are eligible to consider using the services.
"It's extremely important because of those challenges [including] frequent moves and deployments, and because tax laws change every year," she said.
Military OneSource tax consultants are available January through April 15, seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. eastern time at 1-800-342-9647. After April 15, the consultants can be reached Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. eastern time.
While Military OneSource tax experts are available only via the phone, Slaton points out that other tax experts are available in person at military installations with a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, location.
The Military OneSource free tax software, which can be found at www.militaryonesource.mil, is available at VITA locations as well.
The software is self-paced and walks users through a series of questions to help them to prepare their return. It allows individuals to electronically file a federal return and up to three state tax returns.
"If at any time during the course of completing their return, the user has any questions about their own tax situation, they can call Military OneSource," Slaton said.
Those eligible for the Military OneSource tax services include National Guard members, and active duty and reserve members of the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy.
Immediate family members of those eligible and non-remarried survivors from any era can also use the services. Military members who retired or were discharged honorably are eligible up to 180 days after leaving the service.
Other groups are eligible, Slaton explained. She encourages people to check the website for further information or call Military OneSource to find out about eligibility.
Available Through June
The free tax preparation and filing software is available through the end of June.
The Military OneSource tax software is secure, as the vendor uses industry-recognized security safeguards, she said. The vendor stands by the filer in the event of an audit or mistake.
Military OneSource, which is a confidential DoD-funded program, offers many other resources, Slaton said, including counseling and services related to family and relationships, finances, health and wellness, education and employment.
"We encourage service members and their families to call Military OneSource and just explore everything that Military OneSource has to offer," she said. "They can call, click and connect with Military OneSource today."
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)