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U.S. Military Tax Guide

Filing Returns

This section discusses the special procedures for military personnel when filing federal tax returns. For information on filing returns for those involved in a combat zone, see Extension of Deadline, later.

Where To File

Send your federal tax return to the Internal Revenue Service Center for the place where you live. For example, Sgt. Kane, who is stationed in Maine but whose permanent home address is in California, should send her federal return to the service center for Maine. The instructions for Forms 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ give the addresses for the service centers. If you are overseas and have an APO or FPO address, file your return with the Internal Revenue Service Center, Philadelphia, PA 19255-0215.

When To File

Most individual tax returns cover a calendar year, January through December. The regular due date for these tax returns is April 15 of the following year. If April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, your tax return is considered timely filed if it is filed by the next business day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. For 2000 tax returns, the due date is April 16, 2001, because April 15 falls on a Sunday.

Extensions

You can receive an extension of time to file your return. Different rules apply, depending on whether you live within the United States or outside the United States.

Within the United States. You can receive an automatic 4-month extension to file your return if by the regular due date you do any of the following.

  • File a paper Form 4868.
  • File Form 4868 electronically by phone or over the Internet.
  • Pay part or all of your estimate of tax due electronically by using a credit card. (If you use this option, you do not have to file Form 4868.)

The extension of time to file is automatic, and you will not receive any notice of approval. However, your request for an extension will be denied if it is not made timely. The IRS will inform you of the denial.

Caution:

You cannot use the automatic extension if (1) you choose to have IRS figure the tax or (2) you are under a court order to file your return by the regular due date.

Payment of tax. An extension of time to file does not mean you have an extension of time to pay any tax due. You must estimate your tax due. You do not have to send in any payment of tax due when you file Form 4868. However, if you pay the tax after the regular due date, you will be charged interest from the regular due date to the date the tax is paid. You also may be charged a penalty for paying the tax late unless you have reasonable cause for not paying your tax when due.

If you file Form 4868 electronically, you can make your tax payment by authorizing a direct debit (automatic withdrawal) from your checking or savings account or by using a credit card.

For more details on how to pay the tax due, see the Form 4868 instructions.

When you file your return. Enter the amount you paid on line 63, Form 1040. On Form 1040A, include the amount in the total on line 40. On Form 1040EZ, include the amount in the total on line 9. To the left of line 40 or line 9, enter "Form 4868" and show the amount paid.

Outside the United States and Puerto Rico. If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, you can qualify for an automatic extension of time until June 15 without filing Form 4868 (or making a payment) if either of the following situations applies to you.

  1. You live outside the United States and Puerto Rico and your main place of business or post of duty is outside the United States and Puerto Rico, or
  2. You are in military or naval service on an assigned tour of duty outside the United States and Puerto Rico for a period that includes the entire due date of the return.
You will be charged interest on any amount not paid by the regular due date until the date the tax is paid.

If you use this automatic extension, you must attach a statement to the return showing that you met the requirement.

You can request an additional 2-month extension to file by August 15 by filing a paper Form 4868 by June 15. Write "Taxpayer Abroad" across the top of Form 4868.

Joint returns. For married persons filing a joint return, only one spouse needs to meet the requirements to take advantage of the automatic extension to June 15.

Separate returns. For married persons filing separate returns, only the spouse who meets the requirements qualifies for the automatic extension to June 15.

Additional extension beyond August 15. You can request an extension beyond the 4-month extension by filing Form 2688 or by writing a letter to the IRS. Except in undue hardship cases, this additional extension will be granted only if Form 4868 has already been filed. Form 2688 or your letter will not be considered if it is filed after the extended due date. If you file Form 2688 and are granted an extension and the IRS discovers that the information you gave was false or misleading, the extension is void. You may then be subject to a penalty for filing late.

TaxTip:

If you are unable to pay the tax owed by the end of the extension period, you may want to file Form 9465 to arrange an installment payment agreement with the IRS that reflects your ability to pay the tax owed.

Signing Returns

Generally, you must sign your return. However, if you are overseas or incapacitated, you can grant a power of attorney to an agent to file and sign your return.

A power of attorney can be granted by filing Form 2848. These forms are available at your nearest legal assistance office. While other power of attorney forms may be used, they must contain the information required by Form 2848.

In Part I of the form, you must indicate that you are granting the power to sign the return, the form number, and the tax year for which the form is being filed. Attach the power of attorney to the tax return. If you are acting on behalf of someone serving in a combat zone, see Filing Returns for Combat Zone/Qualified Hazardous Duty Area Participants, later.

Joint returns. Generally, joint returns must be signed by both spouses. However, when a spouse is overseas, in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, in a missing status, incapacitated, or deceased, a power of attorney may be needed to file a joint return.

Spouse overseas. If one spouse is overseas on military duty, there are two options when filing a joint return. One spouse can prepare the return, sign it, and send it to the other spouse to sign early enough so that it can be filed by the due date. Or, the spouse who expects to be overseas on the due date of the return can file Form 2848 specifically designating that the spouse who remains in the United States can sign the return for the absent spouse.

Spouse in combat zone/qualified hazardous duty area. If your spouse is unable to sign the return because he or she is serving in a combat zone/qualified hazardous duty area or is performing qualifying service outside of a combat zone/qualified hazardous duty area, such as the Persian Gulf Area or Yugoslavia, or a qualified hazardous duty area (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Macedonia), and you do not have a power of attorney or other statement, you can sign for your spouse. Attach a signed statement to your return that explains that your spouse is serving in a combat zone.

Spouse in missing status. The spouse of a member of the Armed Forces who is in a missing status in a combat zone can still file a joint return. A joint return can be filed for any year beginning not more than 2 years after the end of the combat zone activities. A joint return filed under these conditions is valid even if it is later determined that the missing spouse died before the year covered by the return.

Spouse incapacitated. If your spouse cannot sign because of disease or injury and he or she tells you to sign, you can sign your spouse's name in the proper space on the return, followed by the words "by [your name], Husband (or Wife)." Be sure to sign your name in the space provided for your signature. Attach a dated statement, signed by you, to your return. The statement should include the form number of the return you are filing, the tax year, the reason your spouse could not sign, and that your spouse has agreed to your signing for him or her.

Spouse died during the year. If one spouse died during the year and the surviving spouse did not remarry before the end of the year, the surviving spouse can file a joint return for that year, writing in the signature area, "Filing as surviving spouse." If an executor or administrator has been appointed, both he or she and the surviving spouse must sign the return filed for the decedent.

Refunds

In general, military personnel follow the same rules as other taxpayers concerning tax refunds. See your tax form instructions for information on what to do if you do not receive an expected refund and how to call to check on your refund status.

TaxTip:

Use Form 8822 to notify the IRS if you move or change your address after filing your return. See How To Get Tax Help, near the end of this publication for information about getting this form.

Information Courtesy of Internal Revenue Service

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