‘Tis the Season to Prepare Your Taxes

Story by Erin Wittkop, Defense Media Activity

‘Twas the night before tax season, when all through the house
Paper was flying ‘round my poor, frantic spouse
The office was ransacked in search of receipts
Files covered our bed instead of soft, comfy sheets
He paced and he muttered as he pulled at his hair
In fear that the Tax Man soon would be there…

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? If this is could be a scene from your tax seasons past, we want to help you make sure that it’s not a chapter from present or future filings too.

Barbara Thompson, the Defense Department‘s Office of Family Policy, Children and Youth director, suggests that service members head to Military OneSource now to learn about tax filing requirements and find out what kind of help is available.

“You don’t want to wait until the last minute. You want to keep a file throughout the year,” she says. It’s important to have all of your paperwork in one place, so that you’re prepared to share it with a tax preparer or you have it readily available when while doing your taxes on your own.

She also points out that deployed service members have a filing extension past the normal April 15 deadline, but reminds troops facing potential deployment that it’s extra important to keep your paperwork organized because it’s harder to put your information together if you’re overseas.

Thompson acknowledges that there’s a lot of information to keep track of and recommends you have the following documents on hand:

  • W-2 Form
  • Correct Social Security numbers for each members of the family
  • Dates of birth
  • Receipts for childcare, education, medical expenses, adoption expenses, donations, miscellaneous write-offs
  • Mortgage, rental and investment information

That’s a lot of information to keep track of and figuring out how to itemize it all can be daunting. Thompson encourages you to take heart and utilize the tax preparation resources.

Military OneSource offers a free online service with H&R Block for individuals that have simple tax returns. The consultants on staff can also answer military specific questions about taxes, like how you should file because you received permanent change of station orders to a new state, and they’ll help you make sure you have all the forms you need.

The consultants at Military OneSource are also a great place to start if this your first time filing taxes independently or as a service member.

Of course, you always have the option to file your taxes on your own. Ms. Thompson notes that this option can get tricky. “Sometimes tax laws change, so you have to be really smart about doing your own taxes,” she says, noting that relocations usually only add to the complications.

She also recommends you consider using a tax consultant or preparer if you own multiple properties or have investments. “It’s best to get advice to make sure you have everything covered. That’s where [tax consultants] can really be of great value,” she says.

In the end, another tax season will come to pass and hopefully Ms. Thompson’s advice will serve you well as you prepare to get through it. In the meantime, enjoy your holiday celebrations and think of the ways you can save or invest your tax return (yes, save it) when the Tax Man (hopefully) delivers it to you next spring.

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