Since Tax Day, usually April 15th of each year, falls this year on a Sunday, federal income tax returns must be filed by Tuesday, April 17th, as do state income tax returns in most states around the country that collect state taxes. Since I started to do my own taxes generations ago, I still follow that ritual. But for military personnel, veterans and their families, lots of free help is available worldwide to insure that you collect, or pay, Uncle Sam on time.
My Congressional representative sent me an e-blast a couple weeks ago on this topic, much of which I did not know. So, I did a bit more online searching where I found some excellent advice which is good to share. First off, the Internal Revenue Service, better known as the IRS, operates the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and one of its strongest partners is an entity called the Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC).
The AFTC tax coordinators from all branches reach out to all military personnel and their families worldwide. Most military installations house a VITA program which can help active duty personnel by providing free tax advice and tax preparation. Moreover, VITA staff overseas is trained to address military-specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the impact of new Earned Income Tax Credit guidelines.
There’s much more to VITA beyond the great work it does for our military around the world. More than 12,000 VITA free tax preparation sites are up and running in the homeland, too, helping citizens who earn less than $50,000 per year get their taxes filed on time. How does the IRS do this? They partner with non-profit and community-based organizations to recruit taxpayer assistance volunteers. I wonder how many of the people being helped through this unheralded program are veterans of military service.
The IRS also offers a Tax Counseling for the Elderly program, or CTE. The IRS partners with the AARP which operates its Tax-Aide program during the filing season. Trained and certified AARP Tax-Aide volunteers help taxpayers with low to moderate income, with special attention paid to those 60 and older. Once again, I’d bet that lots of vets over 60 years of age are using this program.
You can find your nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) facility by calling the IRS toll-free at 1-800-906-9887, or searching VITA at www.irs.gov. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, telephone 1-888-227-7669, or visit www.aarp.org.
Chair of the VetsFirst Committee