Special Tax Breaks for Military and Families

NSTPInternal Revenue Service (IRS), Military

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces Are Eligible for Special Tax Breaks
Members of the military and their families are encouraged to learn more about the special tax breaks available to them as the April 15 tax filing season deadline approaches. Most military bases offer free tax preparation and filing assistance during the tax filing season. Some also offer free tax help after the April tax filing deadline. Service members who prepare their own return qualify to e-file their federal tax return for free using IRS Free File. “The IRS appreciates the women and men who are serving in the United States military, both at home and abroad,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “We encourage military families to review the resources available at IRS.gov since there are special circumstances that can affect tax payment and return filing deadlines for military personnel. Lastly, we extend our personal appreciation to each and every member of the military, their families and veterans for your service to our country. We are extremely proud of the many veterans now employed by the IRS, and all of our employees are pleased to serve the members of the military family.” IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide, is a free booklet filled with valuable information and tips designed to help service members and their families take advantage of all the tax benefits allowed by law. Several special tax breaks are outlined below.
  • Combat pay is partially or fully tax-free. Service members serving in support of a combat zone or in a qualified hazardous duty area may also qualify for this exclusion. In addition, U.S. citizens or resident aliens, such as spouses, that worked as contractors or employees of contractors supporting the U.S. Armed Forces in designated combat zones, may now qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion.
  • Members of the military, such as those who serve in a combat zone or are serving in contingency operations outside the United States, can postpone most tax deadlines. Those who qualify can get automatic extensions of time to file and pay their taxes.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit is worth up to $6,431. Low- and moderate-income service members who receive nontaxable combat pay can use a special computation method that may boost the EITC, meaning they may owe less tax or get a larger refund.
  • Those who served in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt may qualify for combat zone tax benefits retroactive to June 2015. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard who performed services in the Sinai Peninsula can now claim combat zone tax benefits.
  • Dependent care assistance programs for military personnel are excludable benefits and not included in the military member’s income.
  • The moving expenses deduction is suspended, except for certain Armed Forces members. Beginning in 2018, active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces who must move because of a military order to a permanent change of station can still claim this deduction. Also, allowances paid to move members of the U.S. Armed Forces for a permanent change of station are excluded from tax.
Both spouses normally must sign a joint income tax return, but if one spouse is absent due to certain military duty or conditions, the other spouse may be able to sign for him or her. A power of attorney is required in other instances. A military installation’s legal office may be able to help. The IRS has a special page on IRS.gov with Tax Information for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces.