They say the best things in life are free, and that’s especially true during tax-filing season. Nothing’s worse than having to pay an arm and a leg to a tax-preparation company, only to find out that you owe an arm and a leg in taxes to Uncle Sam.
The good news is that serving your country has its perks during tax season, with a number of options for free tax filing for military families. A variety of services and programs, through both the U.S. government and private businesses, are available to make preparing and filing your taxes as close to a breeze as possible.
The first place to start in researching options is IRS Free File , a public-private partnership between the IRS and many tax-preparation-and-filing software industry leaders that provide their brand-name products for free. Households with an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less are entitled to guided tax-preparation services and free federal filing.
Those with incomes above that level can still take advantage of free fillable electronic forms. Keep in mind, however, that this service is best for those who feel comfortable completing their own returns without outside assistance or special tax-preparation software. The Free File Fillable Forms service provides only basic calculations and does not offer extensive error checking.
Tax filers don’t need to limit their search to the IRS to find military discounts. Start with Miltax , an offering from the Department of Defense and Military OneSource that provides free tax prep and e-filing software and personalized support. Miltax boasts that its program “address the realities of military life – deployments, combat and training pay, housing and rentals, multistate filings, living OCONUS (overseas) and more.”
The software, which is available from mid-January through mid-October, walks filers through a series of questions to help them complete and electronically file a federal return and up to three state returns. Military tax consultants are also available to help filers navigate unique tax situations commonly experienced by service members and their families. Call 1-800-342-9647 for more information on the program.
Finally, active-duty members of the military and their families with an annual household income of no more than $73,000 may choose from a number of Free File tax software companies to help them prepare their tax returns online.
Who Is Eligible for Free Tax Services?
Not all members of the armed forces are treated the same when it comes to accessing free tax services. Only active-duty members of the military and their spouses are typically eligible for free services on bases. For members of the National Guard or Reserves, veterans or civilian military personnel, available tax services may depend on available resources on a given base.
The situation may also vary when using tax software programs, because those programs typically use the filer’s W-2 information to determine what military discounts, if any, the filer is eligible for. Only active-duty members of the military and their families with household incomes of $73,000 or less are eligible for free tax preparation through the Tax File software companies.
Income levels and the complexity of returns are other factors that may determine whether military personnel can file for free or receive military discounts. Many online tax-preparation programs offer free versions for basic returns and/or if the filer’s adjusted gross income is below a certain level.
» More: Filing Taxes When Deployed
On-Base Military Tax Services
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which is sponsored by the IRS, offers free tax-filing help on many military bases. Many VITA volunteers are also specially trained to help with military-specific tax issues, such as combat zone exclusions and non-taxable military pay and benefits.
Those stationed on military bases should check for more information about specific services available at their installation, including location of tax centers, hours of operation, scheduling appointments and necessary documentation.
H&R Block also offers discounted tax-preparation services to military members and their families through the Army & Air Force Exchange Service. Readers can click here to find out whether there is a participating exchange in their area.
Off-Base Military Tax Services
For those who can’t find the tax-filing help they need or want on their base, there are options off base specifically designed for military members. For instance, Liberty Tax offers special pricing on tax preparation for all active-duty and veteran service members.
Go to to learn more about available services and to book an appointment. Liberty, which has offices nationwide, offers the option to file taxes in person or online.
Online Military Tax Services
Members of the armed forces and veterans can choose from a number of online services to file their taxes, some of which are specially tailored toward military life. For instance, Military OneSource provides a suite of free tax-preparation-and-filing services and tax consultations through MilTax. Among the services available are support from tax consultants and current information about filing taxes in the military. The MilTax preparation and e-filing software is available mid-January through mid-October.
Another option is IRS Free File software through IRS.gov (reminder that this service is only available to taxpayers with AGI of no more than $73,000). Start by choosing between guided tax preparation and free fillable forms (for those with AGI above $73,000) on the IRS Free File site. Tax filers then will be directed to an IRS partner website to complete and e-file their return. Some state tax preparation and filing services may also be free for those with AGI of no more than $73,000.
Military personnel can also shop around directly with a number of online tax-preparation companies that offer free or specialized services to members of the armed forces. These include TaxSlayer (active- duty military personnel can file a federal return for free with no restrictions), TurboTax (all enlisted active-duty and Reservists can file federal and state returns for free), TaxAct (free federal and state filing for all active-duty military) and FreeTaxUSA (free federal filing).
What Do You Need When Filing?
However military personnel decide to file their taxes, there is one common denominator that is essential to ensuring the process goes smoothly: collecting and organizing the necessary documents.
Whether doing one’s taxes in person or online, with the help of experts or independently, be sure to first collect the following documents and information:
- Photo ID/Military IDI
- Social Security cards for each family member claimed on the return
- Wage and earning statement(s), such as Forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R
- Childcare costs
- Investment income forms
- Receipts for charitable donations
- Receipts for deductible expenses
- Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit
- Previous year’s returns
Tax filers who will be meeting with a professional tax preparer should call ahead to make sure they are not forgetting anything.
W-2 forms are usually available for military members by the end of January and can be downloaded from the MyPay website. Many bank and investment tax forms can also be accessed online through the relevant financial institution.
About The Author
Tom Jackson focuses on writing about debt solutions for consumers struggling to make ends meet. His background includes time as a columnist for newspapers in Washington D.C., Tampa and Sacramento, Calif., where he reported and commented on everything from city and state budgets to the marketing of local businesses and how the business of professional sports impacts a city. Along the way, he has racked up state and national awards for writing, editing and design. Tom’s blogging on the 2016 election won a pair of top honors from the Florida Press Club. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife of 40 years, college-age son, and Spencer, a yappy Shetland sheepdog.
- N.A. (2021, February 25) Free Electronic Filing Options for Military Members and Their Families. IRS. Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/free-electronic-filing-options-for-military-members-and-their-families
- Guina, R. (2022, January 14) Free Tax Filing and Preparation for Military Members. The Military Wallet. Retrieved from https://themilitarywallet.com/free-tax-preparation-for-military-members/
- Sweeney, H. (ND) Free and Discounted Tax Preparation for Military. Military.com. Retrieved from https://www.military.com/discounts/free-tax-preparation-for-military.html