Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

Service member meets with a volunteer

Military members, including retirees, are eligible to receive free tax consultation and preparation at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance locations.

Take command of your taxes. The VITA program, offered through the Armed Forces Tax Council, provides coordinators for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and Coast Guard. VITA specialists are trained to address military-specific tax issues such as combat-zone benefits and applying Earned Income Credit guidelines. They oversee the operation of military tax programs worldwide and serve as the main IRS outreach for military personnel and their families.

Before you visit

As tax day approaches, the VITA team is on your side. You can obtain tax advice, tax preparation, return filing and other tax services for free.

Find the VITA program site nearest you.

To have your tax returns prepared, bring the following items to a VITA site:

  • Valid photo identification
  • Social Security cards for the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents, if applicable (an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number assignment letter may be substituted for you, your spouse and your dependents if you do not have a Social Security number)
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Birth dates for primary and secondary earners and dependents on the tax return
  • Free MilTax Software

    As a member of the military family, you can obtain 100% free access to tax consultants and financial counselors with military expertise. Contact Military OneSource anytime, 24/7 at 800-342-9647 to take advantage of this benefit.

  • Wage and earning statements (W-2, W-2G, 1099-R and 1099-Misc forms) from all employers
  • Forms 1095-A, B and C, health coverage statements
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms)
  • Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if received
  • Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit of your refund
  • Statements related to mortgages and homestead expenses (or rental property expenses to include insurance and property management)
  • Work-related materials and expenses that have not been reimbursed by your employer (to include mileage information and vehicle maintenance)
  • Documentation of donations and charitable expenses
  • Other relevant data about income and expenses (information about move-related expenses that were not reimbursed, home remodeling expenses, day care payments ─ with your day care provider’s identifying number, tax ID or Social Security number ─ and utility costs that may be eligible for tax credits)
  • Last year’s federal and state returns, if available (not required, but extremely helpful)
  • Copies of income transcripts from the IRS and state, if applicable

Having these documents available will make this process easier and possibly result in your receiving a bigger tax refund. Don’t forget that when filing taxes electronically on a married/joint return, both spouses must be present to sign and have appropriate identification.

Military OneSource MilTax provides help finding VITA program locations where participants can self-file, sit down with a trained tax professional and complete their state and federal tax returns, or drop off their forms and return at a designated time to complete their free tax filing. VITA offices and Military OneSource offer free electronic filing to eligible service members and their families.

Getting a Tax Refund? Seven Ways You Can Put it to Good Use

Soldier holds one hundred dollar bill

Getting a tax refund may seem like free money, but it’s not. It’s money you worked hard for and are entitled to get back from the government. So, as you decide what to do with your refund ─ whether you are looking to help secure you financial future or otherwise ─ consider these options:

Free MilTax Software

To get a tax refund, you have to file your taxes first. That’s easy to do with MilTax’s preparation and e-filing software, available from mid-January to mid-October. It’s easy to use and guaranteed to be 100% accurate.

  1. Speak to a Military OneSource financial counselor or check out your installation’s Personal Financial Management Services. Military OneSource provides free access to counselors who are prepared to help service members and their families with general financial questions. Call 800-342-9647 or live chat.
  2. Pay down your highest-interest credit card debt. Take this opportunity to pay down your debt and lower the overall amount you end up paying your credit card company.
  3. Make an extra car or mortgage payment. If there is no prepayment penalty, pay ahead on these loans and enjoy 100% ownership of your car or house a little earlier.
  4. Build up an emergency fund. An emergency fund is not your retirement nest egg. Set up a savings account designed to pay for unexpected expenses such as a sudden car repair or appliance replacement. Start with a goal to save $500 or $1,000 for emergencies but aim to save three- to six-months’-worth of living expenses.
  5. Check your spending plan. This is a good time to check your spending plan to see if there are any holes you need to cover with your refund.
  6. Plan for future expenses. Consider designating a certain percentage of your income for retirement and potential college expenses through the Thrift Savings Plan or Roth Thrift Savings Plan.
  7. Invest in yourself. Have you always wanted to take a certification class, learn a new skill or earn a college degree? Consider using your refund to boost your skills.

Remember that while getting a tax refund is a good thing, you may benefit by adjusting your deductions and using that money throughout the year instead of lending it to Uncle Sam.

After all, you might as well try and earn some interest on that money instead of just banking it at the IRS. Better yet, consider taking that extra money from each paycheck and investing it directly into your retirement or college savings accounts.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule a free appointment with a MilTax consultant or a financial counselor. OCONUS/international? View calling options.

Accessing MilTax Preparation and Filing Software – A Three-Step Process

Woman working at a computer

MilTax is here to support you in navigating the 2020 filing season. This suite of free tax-filing services is available to service members (including members of the National Guard and reserves), immediate family members, eligible survivors and retired and honorably discharged service members (including Coast Guard veterans) until 365 days post-separation or retirement.

To ensure easy access to this free MilTax tax preparation and e-filing software, review the tips below and the included three-step guide to accessing the software. If you are experiencing issues with access or login, see our general troubleshooting section at the bottom of this page or read more on our Military OneSource account information page. You can also contact Customer Support directly.

STEP 1

Log in to your
Military OneSource account

You must have a Military OneSource account to use the free tax preparation and e-filing software.

If you already have an account
Click on the LOG IN TO START button on the MilTax Tax Services page. First, you may be directed to a Department of Defense consent page. After reading and clicking that you agree, click on the Proceed to Login button. You will be taken to a Military OneSource login page to continue. Enter your account credentials and click on the LOGIN button. Once logged in, you will be redirected to the MilTax software starting page and can proceed to Step 2.

If you do not have a Military OneSource account
Under the LOG IN TO START button on the MilTax Tax Services page, you will see the option to create a new account. Click “Create one.” First, you may be directed to a DOD consent page. After reading and clicking that you agree, click on the Proceed to Login button. Go to the “Not registered yet?” section toward the bottom of the screen and click on the Register Now link.

Enter the information to register and submit to create your account. You will then need to check your email to verify your access. Click the link in the email you receive from Military OneSource and complete the registration process by filling out additional information and selecting your role. After completing this step, your account should be active. You may need to revisit the MilTax Tax Services page to log in.

You must have an account with Military OneSource to access the free MilTax software on the provider’s site.

STEP 2

Confirm if you are filing at a VITA self-service kiosk.

Once you have logged in to your Military OneSource account and are on the MilTax software starting page, you will need to confirm if you are using one of the Volunteer Information Tax Assistance self-service kiosks located at many military installations.

If you are not using a VITA self-service kiosk, select “No” to the question, “are you accessing the MilTax software at a VITA location?” and click the Launch the MilTax Software button.

If you are using a VITA self-service kiosk, select “Yes.” You will be asked a few additional questions before you can click Launch the MilTax Software button.

Once you have selected the launch button, you will be alerted that you are leaving Military OneSource and will be taken to the software provider’s tax-filing site. Click “Continue” to proceed to Step 3. You will be logged out of your Military OneSource account after five minutes of inactivity.

STEP 3

Log in or create a separate, free and secure account with the MilTax software provider.

Once you click Launch the MilTax Software on the MilTax software starting page, you will be taken to the tax preparation software provider’s website and asked to log in or create an account. This account is specific to this software provider and is different than your Military OneSource account.

If you have an existing MilTax account with the tax software provider from a previous year filing with MilTax, enter your login information.

If you do not have an existing MilTax account with the tax software provider, click the green Create Account button.

Once you have created your account and logged in with the tax software provider, you will be taken to the MilTax start screen to begin preparing your return.

For future access to the MilTax software, visit Military OneSource.

To access the MilTax software in the future, you will need to return to the Military OneSource Tax Services page, not the software provider’s website, and log in to your Military OneSource account before returning to the software.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Expired account password

Users are required to update their Military OneSource account password every 60 days. You may do so by navigating to the Military OneSource sign-in screen and selecting the “Forgot Your Password?” link.

Are you receiving a security error?

If you receive a security error when trying to access one of our Military OneSource web pages, your browser may be incompatible with the website’s DOD security certificates. You can try a different browser, such as a Google Chrome, or click “Proceed” to continue past the security warning. You can submit a Customer Support ticket at any time for additional support.

If you are experiencing an error not described above or have a question about your account, visit our frequently asked questions or contact Military OneSource Customer Support.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the New Tax Laws

man reviews papers with calculator and computer

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic led to some temporary changes in tax laws. These come on the heels of major tax reform – the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed in December 2017.

Most changes apply to the general public, but some have special implications for the military community. Even within the military community, the changes will not have the same impact on everyone. So it is important to know your circumstances and adapt to the reforms and changes in a way that reflects your finances and lifestyle.

If you have questions about recent changes or any other tax-related issues, MilTax consultants can provide answers.

Free MilTax Software.

Military OneSource MilTax answers your tax questions and helps you get every deduction and benefit you’ve earned – and it’s 100% free. With MilTax, there are no hidden surprises.

COVID-19-related changes

Provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act may affect your 2020 federal income tax return in the following ways:

  • Retirement account withdrawals: The 10% tax penalty for an early withdrawal from a retirement account has been suspended in 2020 for those who suffered financial hardship due to COVID-19.
  • Economic Impact Payments: You should have received a $1,200 Economic Impact Payment in 2020 ($2,400 if you are married), plus $500 for each qualifying child. If you did not, or if you received less than the amount for which you were eligible, you may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your federal income tax return.
  • Charitable contributions: To encourage giving in 2020, the CARES Act allows taxpayers to deduct up to $300 in cash donations to eligible charities without itemizing the contributions.
  • Unemployment benefits: If you are a military spouse who received unemployment benefits in 2020, you will receive a form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments, that states your unemployment income and any income tax withheld. Be sure to report this information on your tax return.
  • Social Security payroll tax deferral: Social Security taxes were deferred for service members from mid-September through the end of December 2020. The deferred Social Security taxes will automatically be taken from your wages from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2021, so will not affect your 2020 income tax filing.

Key tax reforms

Picture your financial and personal events over the last year. Perhaps you are looking forward to having your first child. Maybe the ink just dried on the paperwork for your new home. Take a look at these key reforms and see if they will affect your spending and family circumstances:

  • Standard deduction: For tax year 2020, the standard deduction is $12,400 for singles or those who are married but filing separately, $24,800 for those who are married and filing jointly and $18,650 for those who file as the head of household.
  • Personal exemption deduction: Beginning in 2018, you can’t claim a personal exemption deduction for yourself, your spouse or your dependents. This may impact decisions on the itemized deductions and dependents you claim on your tax return.
  • Itemized deductions: Beginning in 2018, the following changes were made to itemized deductions that taxpayers can claim on Schedule A:
    • Your itemized deductions are no longer limited if your adjusted gross income is over a certain amount.
    • You can deduct the part of your medical and dental expenses that is more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
    • Your deduction of state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 ($5,000 if married and filing separately). As a military member, your state of legal residence and the state in which you own a home will determine how much this change impacts you.
    • Under the new rules, unreimbursed business expenses, including auto, travel, meals, entertainment and home office expenses, are no longer deductions.
    • For debt incurred after Dec. 15, 2017, the deduction for home mortgage interest is limited to interest on up to $750,000 ($375,000 if you are a married taxpayer filing a separate return) of home-acquisition debt. This new limit doesn’t apply if you had a binding contract to close on a home after Dec. 15, 2017, and closed on or before April 1, 2018. The prior limit would apply in that case.
    • Beginning in 2018, you cannot deduct interest on a home equity loan or line of credit unless it’s for buying, building or making substantial improvements to your home.
    • The limit on charitable contributions of cash increased from 50% to 60% of your adjusted gross income. However, for tax year 2020 only, the limit is 100% of your adjusted gross income.
  • Child tax credit: As of 2019, the maximum credit is $2,000 per qualifying child. The maximum additional child tax credit is $1,400. Also, the income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out is now $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly).
  • Credit for other dependents: A credit of up to $500 is available for each of your dependents, such as an adult child with a disability or an elderly parent who does not qualify for the child tax credit. In addition, the maximum income threshold at which the credit begins to phase out has increased to $200,000 ($400,000 if married and filing jointly).
  • Education: As a result of the new tax codes, you can use funds from your 529 education savings plan to pay for private K-12 educational expenses at secondary public, private or religious schools with a limit of $10,000 per student per year.
  • Reserve service members: Reserve service members are able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses to attend drill duty only if it takes place more than 100 miles away from home.
  • Moving expenses: Members of the armed forces can still deduct moving expenses as long as the move is part of an authorized permanent change of station or PCS. If you’re voluntarily moving, you will join most other taxpayers in no longer being able to deduct moving expenses from your taxes.
  • Deployments to the Sinai Peninsula: If you previously served in the newly designated combat zone, you may qualify for retroactive tax benefits. If so, you’ll need to submit an amended tax return, or Form 1040X, for the year in which you were there, dating to 2015. You generally have three years from the date you filed your previous tax return to claim the refund.
  • Alimony or maintenance payments: If you make alimony or maintenance payments, you will no longer be able to deduct them from your taxable income, and the recipient will no longer have to claim the payments as income. This went into effect for any divorce or separation agreement signed or modified after Dec. 31, 2018.
  • Estate tax exemption: The estate tax exemption for 2020 is $11.58 million, so an estate valued at less than the new threshold will not be taxed when the owner dies.
  • Investment fees: You can no longer deduct investment fees from taxes. If a major part of your financial strategy includes investments, and you have substantial investor fees, you will be paying more in taxes.
  • Penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage: Beginning in 2019, the penalty amount was reduced to zero.

How to prepare for the upcoming tax season

Protect your finances by withholding enough to avoid paying additional taxes when you file. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you need to update your withholding selections:

  • Are you a two-income family?
  • Do you work two or more jobs at the same time or work only part of the year?
  • Do you claim credits such as the child tax credit?
  • Do you claim older dependents, including children 17 and older?
  • Did you itemize deductions in 2019?
  • Do you have a high income and historically complex tax returns?
  • Did you have a large tax refund or large tax bill in 2019?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider updating your Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, with your employer as soon as possible.

  • Military OneSource MilTax tax preparation and e-filing software can make tax season easier for you. Call 800-342-9647 or start a live chat anytime to schedule an appointment with a MilTax consultant or accredited financial counselor. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. All MilTax services are 100% free to eligible service members and their families.
  • You have accredited Personal Financial Managers and counselors at your fingertips. Set up a free appointment at your nearest family center to learn more about how the tax law changes impact your financial goals.
  • The IRS provides a useful Tax Withholding Estimator to help you determine whether you or your spouse need to make adjustments.
  • The IRS often changes and updates tax forms. Always check the IRS website for the most up-to-date tax forms before planning or preparing your taxes.
  • Tax preparation for the military community is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Locate the VITA site nearest to you.

Military OneSource MilTax – Benefits

Military OneSource provides service members and their families with easy access to a suite of tax services, including easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software designed to address military-specific situations, and information and resources on a variety of tax-related topics. And it’s all free.

MilTax assistance includes providing answers to any questions about your economic impact payment or coronavirus disease 2019 tax implications, such as if you are a military spouse and experienced job or wage loss due to  COVID-19. With MilTax, there are no hidden surprises.

MilTax consultations

MilTax consultants have extensive knowledge of the tax benefits for military members, families and survivors, and can help you get all the tax credits and deductions you qualify for. MilTax consultants are specially trained to understand all kinds of military tax situations. Assistance includes:

  • Alerting you to tax requirements and deductions related to military life
  • Identifying important tax regulations that apply to service members
  • Answering your questions so you can confidently complete federal and state tax forms
  • Addressing any tax-related questions you have while preparing your federal and state tax returns
  • Connecting you to MilTax software for secure online preparation and free tax filing.

MilTax software is available mid-January through mid-October. Get virtual support anywhere, anytime. Call 800-342-9647, 24/7 to schedule an appointment to speak with a MilTax consultant. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

MilTax tax preparation and filing services

MilTax free preparation and e-filing software is made to be convenient for the military community. It was developed with the realities of military life in mind – scenarios that civilians rarely encounter – including deployments, combat pay, multiple moves and multi-state filing. This self-paced tax software allows you to:

  • Complete and electronically file your federal return and up to three state tax forms.
  • Check on your electronic filing status.
  • Rest easy knowing that a tax software provider is by your side if you get audited.
  • Get 100% accurate calculations, or the tax software provider will reimburse you up to $10,000. Terms and conditions apply.

MilTax e-filing software is easy to use, and free technical assistance is available if you need it. The system protects and safeguards the security and confidentiality of your personal information by using industry-recognized safeguards.

For technical assistance, such as login issues, using the software, printing returns, etc., call 855-897-8639 and follow the prompts.

Earned income tax credit

Understand whether you can obtain an Earned Income Tax Credit to put more money in your pocket. These are federal income tax credits for low- and moderate- income working individuals and families. Be aware that:

  • The credit can generate a refund if you do not have any taxes to pay.
  • Service members and families may have an easier time qualifying for the credit because some forms of military income – such as pay earned during service in a combat zone or basic allowances for housing – are non-taxable and aren’t included as part of your total income.

To find out more about the credit or tax help for military members and veterans, visit the IRS website.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

  • You can meet with a military tax consultant for face-to-face assistance via the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at no cost – for tax advice and preparation, return filing and other tax assistance.
  • This IRS program offers free tax preparation and e-filing at sites on and off base. It also has sites overseas to help military members and their families.

Find a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location near you.

Financial counseling

Should MilTax consultants help you get a tax refund, schedule a free financial counseling session with Military OneSource to figure out the best way to apply that refund to long-term savings goals.

According to the IRS, filers received on average $2,577 in direct deposit tax refunds in 2019. So if you are expecting to get a refund this year, file early and replenish your savings.

And you don’t have to wait for your refund in the mail. Through Military OneSource MilTax, you can sign up to get your refund sent straight to your bank account through direct deposit.

To take advantage of MilTax and other potential tax benefits, call 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule a free consultation today.  CONUS/International? Click here for calling options.

College Tuition and Taxes: What You Need to Know

Graduates, graduation, tuition, tuition assistance, row of graduates

With another tax season demanding your attention, be aware of any opportunities to claim the deductions to which you are entitled. And with this in mind, do not overlook the potential tax savings for those pursuing higher education.

If you are a student or parent with an eye toward maximizing your deductions, connect with Military OneSource MilTax free tax services to get everything you qualify for. MilTax consultants have extensive knowledge of tax benefits for military families and can help you identify tax incentives for education expenses and student loan payments.

There are three main sources of tax savings associated with college expenses: tax credits, tax deductions and savings plans benefits.

Free MilTax Services

MilTax’s tax preparation and e-filing software is available mid-January through mid-October. And MilTax consultants are available year-round to help with tax questions or extensions.

Tax credits

If you, your spouse or a dependent have expenses related to higher education, you may qualify for an education tax credit, which can reduce the amount of federal income tax you owe. Consider these two options:

  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit allows you to claim an annual credit of up to $2,500 per student for qualified expenses paid during the first four years of college. Be sure you qualify before making a claim, however, or you may end up having to pay the money back with interest, along with other possible penalties.
  • The Lifetime Learning Credit lets you claim a nonrefundable credit of up to $2,000 per year for undergraduate, graduate and professional students, for an unlimited number of years.

To be eligible to claim the AOTC or the LLC, the law requires a taxpayer (or a dependent) to have received Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from an eligible educational institution, whether domestic or foreign. If you have questions, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to schedule an appointment and get answers from a MilTax consultant.

Tax deductions

Higher education expenses can also help reduce your taxable income. Here are a few tax deductions that you may qualify for:

  • A student loan interest deduction allows you to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest you’ve paid on qualified student loans. You won’t have to itemize your tax return to receive this deduction, and you may qualify for it if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $75,000 (or $155,000, if you file a joint return).
  • You can also claim a business deduction for work-related education expenses if they are more than 2% of your adjusted gross income. A MilTax consultant can help you itemize your taxes and meet other requirements set by the IRS to allow you to qualify for this deduction.

College savings plans

If you have a savings plan for college, it may offer additional tax benefits.

  • Under a 529 Plan, contributions are not deductible on your federal tax return, but earnings and distributions from the money you save are tax-free, as long as you use the funds for qualified higher education expenses.
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account contributions are not tax-deductible, either. But you can grow your Coverdell savings tax-free if you contribute no more than $2,000 per student each year. You can also make tax-free distributions if the amount you withdraw doesn’t exceed your qualified education expenses.

Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule a free appointment with a MilTax consultant or a financial counselor. OCONUS/international? Click here for calling options. You can also visit the IRS Tax Benefits for Education Information Center or contact a qualified tax professional.