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By Heather Sweeney,

Tax season is here again. And while filing for tax returns can be tricky for the average family, it can get even more complicated for military families.

Thankfully, military personnel and their families have access to a variety of tax preparation and filing services for free. Whether you choose to file taxes yourself online or you prefer some outside assistance from a trained professional, there are a several free options to choose from.

Military Installation Tax Centers

Most large military installations worldwide offer service members and their families free income tax filing assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program which is sponsored by the IRS. VITA sites have volunteers that are trained by the IRS to provide assistance with some of the more complicated military-specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits.

Click here to contact your local installation for more information about location of tax centers, hours of operation, scheduling appointments, and necessary documentation.

Off-Base Services

Liberty Tax Service is also offering members a new customer discount of $50 off income tax preparation. Click here to print out the coupon and take it to participating Liberty offices with a valid military ID.

Online Tax Preparation

Military OneSource provides free tax preparation and filing services and tax consultations for military families. This service allows military members to complete and electronically file federal and up to 3 state tax returns. This is available for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and spouses. Service members who retired and discharged honorably are eligible until 180 days past their retirement date, end of tour of service or discharge date. You must create a free account with Military OneSource to use this service.

IRS Free File Software is a program that provides free federal tax prep and e-file for taxpayers whose Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is below $64,000. (Use Free File Fillable Forms if your income is greater than $64,000.) Select a brand name software program, create an account and then the software guides you through return preparation. Free File software opens January 13, 2017. (Free File Fillable Forms will be available January 23, 2017.)

TaxSlayer has a Military Edition for active duty service members to prepare federal and state returns online for 50% off.

TurboTax offers discounts on its software that’s customized for members of the military. Service members with pay grades of E1-E5 can get the software for free, while pay grades of E6 and above can get the software at a discounted price.

Necessary Documents

Filing your taxes requires a lot of documents and personal information so make sure to collect everything you’ll need before you get started. The following is a list of some of those necessary records, but if you’re getting outside help, it’s best to call ahead to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

  • Photo ID/Military ID
  • Social security cards for you and each family member claimed on the return
  • Wage and earning statement(s), such as Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R
  • Child care costs
  • Investment income forms
  • Receipts for charitable donations
  • Receipts for deductible expenses
  • Your bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit
  • Last year’s returns

W-2 forms are usually available for military members by the end of January and can be downloaded from MyPay website.

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