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Deployed servicemembers qualify for tax filing extension

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Deepa Patel
  • Chief, Legal Assistance
T-minus five days before you deploy. By this point, you've heard every briefing possible.

Airmen and Family Readiness: Check.

Chaplain: Check

Intel: Check

And as you sit through the finance and legal briefings, your mind logically drifts from how you're getting paid to what you will do with that money. Then you remember Uncle Sam.

How will I file my taxes if I'm deployed?

"Deployers are eligible to file for an extension of their tax deadline," said Capt. Aaron Jones, Assistant Staff Judge Advocate.

Military extensions
Under IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces' Tax Guide, military members who serve in a combat zone or deploy outside of the United States away from their permanent duty station may qualify for an extension.

However, the deployment must be during a contingency operation that is designated by the Secretary of Defense or results in calling members to active duty during a war or national emergency as declared by the President or Congress. The extension will generally last for 180 days.

"The last day is determined by a number of factors," said Jones. "It can be the last day you served in a combat zone, the area you served in that qualified as a combat zone, or of the entire contingency operation."

For servicemembers who have been wounded, the last day can be the day that member was hospitalized for an injury sustained from serving in the combat zone or contingency operation.

Spouses of servicemembers who qualify for these extensions are generally also eligible to receive the same benefits as long as they meet certain conditions listed under IRS Publication 3.

Combat zone exclusion
If you have served in a combat zone over the past year, you can exclude certain pay from your income. This pay is referred to as your combat pay.

"In essence, you do not have to include your combat pay when calculating you gross income for that year," said Jones. "The only exception is if you use that pay to contribute to your individual retirement account, or IRA. Then you do have to count it."

Deferral of payment
Delaying payment of a tax is also a possibility before or during military service.

"To qualify, you have to notify the IRS that your ability to pay has been affected by military service," said Jones. "You may even be allowed up to 180 days after leaving military service to pay your taxes."

Those who are granted deferrals are not charged interest or a penalty if they pay in full by the end of the deferral period. Additionally, this exception does not apply for Social Security and Medicare taxes.

For more detailed information on deployment and taxes, see IRS publication 3 (The Armed Forces' Tax Guide).