VITA Offers Free Tax Preparation to Military Members and Retirees

3/10/2021

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Is it just us, or does it seem like tax season comes earlier every year? The fact is, this year, tax season actually got a bit of a late start. The government postponed the first day for filing your taxes by a couple of weeks. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean your refund will be delayed, if you’re eligible for one. The IRS expects to be able to pay refunds fairly fast.

Why the delay? The IRS needed time to update and test its system to account for late-breaking tax changes that occurred in December, including the second round of stimulus payments. That delay also provided additional time for remaining stimulus payments to get to eligible people and families.

Preparing for your VITA appointment

Despite the slightly delayed start, the April 15 deadline remains the same. That means it’s time to prepare. Active and retired members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible for free tax consultation and free tax preparation at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location.

This free service is available through the Armed Forces Tax Council. VITA provides coordinators for the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. You can get help with unique military-specific tax issues such as combat-zone benefits, applying Earned Income Credit guidelines, and more.

When you’re ready to get started on your 2020 taxes, you can search for the VITA location nearest you. If you will be filing a married/joint return, be sure to make an appointment that works for you and your spouse, because both of you must be present.

Due to COVID-19, a number of VITA locations will be closed. If you can’t find a location open near you, Military OneSource MilTax offers services that provide step-by-step instructions on how to file electronically.

If you do have an in-person appointment, here is a handy checklist to help you pull together all the items you need to take with you:

  • Your and your spouse’s valid photo IDs.
  • Social Security cards for the taxpayer, spouse, and dependents, if applicable.
  • Birth dates for primary and secondary earners and dependents on the tax return.
  • Wage and earning statements (W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R forms) from all employers.
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms).
  • Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit of your refund.
  • Statements related to mortgages and homestead expenses (or rental property expenses that include insurance and property management).
  • Work-related materials and expenses that have not been reimbursed by your employer (including mileage information and vehicle maintenance).
  • Documentation of donations and charitable expenses.
  • Other documentation about income and expenses such as move-related expenses that were not reimbursed; home remodeling expenses; total amount paid for day care (including the day care provider and identification number, tax ID or Social Security number); and utility costs that may be eligible for tax credits.
  • Last year’s federal and state tax returns, if you have them.

Frequently asked tax questions

Filing your taxes can be confusing, so we’ve pulled together a few common questions and answers you might find helpful.

I’m a deployed service member. Do I still have to file a tax return? Yes. Fortunately, the IRS offers tools and special extensions to make filing taxes easier during deployment. Learn more.

Do I have to use VITA to handle my taxes? You can file your own taxes, if you’d prefer to. Consider using MilTax e-filing.

How long will it take to get my refund? The IRS expects most refunds to be issued within three weeks for those who file electronically and have the money deposited directly into their bank account. To avoid delays, avoid filing a hard-copy return.

I received a stimulus payment. Is it taxable? No. The economic stimulus payments issued during the pandemic are not taxed, and they won’t reduce your refund.

What if I’m eligible for stimulus payments but didn’t receive them? If you were eligible but didn’t receive yours, or if you only received a partial payment, it’s not too late. The IRS allows you to claim a recovery rebate credit on your 2020 tax return. 

The Perfect Time to Reassess Your Family’s Finances

While you’re spending time looking closely at your financial situation during tax season, it’s also a good time to reassess your and your family’s finances and insurance needs. USBA can help. USBA offers budget-friendly group life insurance, health insurance supplements and other products and services to fit the needs of active-duty military personnel, National Guard and Reserve members, Veterans and their families.

USBA is a not-for-profit Association that provides group life insurance, health insurance supplements, and other products and services to military personnel, Federal employees, National Guard and Reserve members, Veterans and their families.

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