The Internal Revenue Service announced recently that the nation’s 2018 tax season is underway and reminds taxpayers claiming certain tax credits that refunds won’t be available before late February. The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on Jan. 29, with nearly 155 million individual tax returns expected to be filed in 2018. The nation’s tax deadline will be April 17 this year – so taxpayers will have two additional days to file beyond April 15.
Although the IRS will begin accepting both electronic and paper tax returns Jan. 29, paper returns will begin processing later in mid-February as system updates continue. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically for faster refunds. Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund. The IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days from the time returns are received.
A dozen brand-name Free File partners, acting through the Free File Alliance, offer their software free to eligible taxpayers. Each partner sets its own criteria, but any taxpayer earning $66,000 or less will find one or more software products available. Some providers offer both free federal and free state tax preparation, a seamless way to file taxes.
Active duty military personnel with incomes of $66,000 or less may use any Free File software product of their choice without regard to the criteria.
For taxpayers who earned more than $66,000, there are Free File Fillable Forms, which will be available Jan. 29. Free File Fillable Forms, provided by the Free File Alliance, is best for those taxpayers experienced in preparing returns by hand and with limited assistance.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) offer free tax help to people who qualify. VITA and TCE sites can be found using the VITA/TCE Locator and entering your ZIP Code or download the IRS2Go smartphone app to find a free tax prep provider.
Military OneSource is a Department of Defense-funded program that provides a range of free resources for Veterans and their immediate family up to 180 days after separation or retirement from the military. MilTax, Military OneSource’s tax services, provides online software for eligible individuals to electronically file a federal and up to three state returns for free through the Military OneSource website. The service also includes tax consultants available by phone to answer tax questions related to deployment, multi-state filing, combat pay, plus share information on military-specific and civilian tax deductions and credits.
Veterans may be eligible to claim a federal tax refund based on:
- An increase in the Veteran’s percentage of disability from VA (which may include a retroactive determination) or
- The combat-disabled Veteran applying for, and being granted, Combat-Related Special Compensation, after an award for Concurrent Retirement and Disability.
Special tax considerations for disabled Veterans occasionally result in a need for amended returns.
Disability benefits received from the VA should not be included in your gross income. Some of the payments which are considered disability benefits include:
- Disability compensation and pension payments for disabilities paid either to Veterans or their families,
- Grants for homes designed for wheelchair living,
- Grants for motor vehicles for Veterans who lost their sight or the use of their limbs, or
- Benefits under a dependent-care assistance program.
If you are a military retiree and receive your disability benefits from the VA, see IRS Publication 525 for more information.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Office of Servicemember Affairs has a Financial Coaching Initiative, focusing on Veterans to help them with their financial goals. This program places certified financial coaches in organizations around the country to provide individualized financial support services. The program is managed through the Armed Forces Services Corporation (AFSC) at various locations for Veterans in the United States.
The phone number to talk to a financial coach is 1-844-90-GOALS. More information about this free program for Veterans can be found at the Financial Couching for Veterans website.
For more information about Veterans, please go to the “Information for Veterans” website on IRS.gov.
The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a trusted tax professional can provide helpful information and advice. Tips for choosing a return preparer and details about national tax professional groups are available on IRS.gov.
Please note that VA does not endorse any of these sites, but brings your attention to them as they have free tax services available specifically for Veterans and their families.
Richard Keeling is a senior tax analyst with the IRS’s Disability and Veteran Programs/National Partnerships office.