1. TurboTax /
  2. Tax Calculators & Tips /
  3. Tax Tips Guides & Videos /
  4. Military /
  5. Serving Uncle Sam: Tax Breaks for the Military

Serving Uncle Sam: Tax Breaks for the Military

Updated for Tax Year 2017


OVERVIEW

Military families are eligible for special tax breaks from the government. Many are also eligible for free tax filing with TurboTax.


Nothing can make up for the hardship of serving in the armed forces. But the government does offer some special tax breaks so that soldiers don’t have to add income taxes to their list of worries. If you serve in the military, here are some of the breaks that you might find helpful for your taxes.

Combat pay doesn't count as income and is not taxable

While you don’t have to include combat pay as taxable income, it could provide a boost when figuring your Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which can reduce the amount of tax you owe and may even help you get a refund. By including combat pay when calculating the credit, you avoid reporting no earned income and not qualifying for the EITC. When you calculate the credit, you must include all or none of your combat pay in the calculation—you can’t include just part of it.

If you are an enlisted member, warrant officer, or commissioned warrant officer, you can also exclude other items from your income for tax purposes, including reenlistment bonuses, pay for accrued leave and student loan repayments.

Penalty-free retirement plan withdrawals

If you’re serving in the military reserves, you might be able to take early withdrawals from IRA and 401(k) accounts without penalty. To qualify for this exemption, you must have been called to active duty after September 11, 2001 for more than 179 days, and you must make the withdrawal while you are on active duty.

Extension of filing deadlines for those serving in combat zones

Members of the military serving in combat zones get an automatic 180-day extension from the IRS for filing tax returns, paying taxes and filing refund claims. The automatic extension also applies to making qualified contributions to an IRA. However, this exception does not apply to Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Other benefits for soldiers

Here are some other tax benefits for military personnel:

  • Maximum interest rate capped at 6 percent. As a member of the military, you cannot be charged more than 6 percent a year on any money you may have owed the IRS before you entered military service. The reduced rate applies only if your service materially affects your ability to pay and applies to the interest the IRS charges you while you are a member of the military.
  • Travel expenses for reservists can be written off. If you are a member of the reserves and you travel more than 100 miles away from home in connection with your service, you can deduct your unreimbursed travel expenses on your return as a more generous adjustment to income rather than as an itemized deduction.
  • Moving expenses are easier to deduct. To deduct these expenses, you normally must meet certain time and distance requirements. However, if you are a member of the armed forces on active duty and you move because of a permanent change of station, you do not have to meet the tests and can deduct your unreimbursed moving expenses.
  • Death benefits to survivors are not taxable. Survivors of armed forces members who die while on active duty receive a $100,000 tax-free death “gratuity” from the government. The gratuity is also paid to survivors of retirees within 120 days of retirement if the death is determined to be service-related.
  • Forgiveness of tax liability in the event of death. Members of the armed forces who die while on duty in a combat zone or in support of a combat operation are forgiven any tax liability they may owe the IRS. If you already paid the tax, that amount will be refunded to your survivor.

Tax preparation for service members

TurboTax now offers a Military Edition specially designed for members of the military and their families. We look for deductions specific to military families and walk you through military-related tax situations including state of residence, uniform deductions and PCS.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $59.99$39.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Absolute Zero $0 federal (forms 1040EZ/1040A) + $0 state limited time offer only available with TurboTax Free Edition; offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Self-Employed Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: To receive your complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed through 4/30/19, you must pay for your 2017 TurboTax Self-Employed return by 4/17/18 and sign-in and access your QuickBooks Self-Employed account via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/turbotax at least twice by 7/15/18. You will have the option of renewing your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 4/30/19 for another year at the then-current subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section. See QuickBooks.com for price comparison. Offer not valid for existing QuickBooks Self-Employed subscribers already on a payment plan.
  • Pays for itself (TurboTax Self-Employed): Estimates based on deductible business expenses calculated at the self-employment tax income rate (15%) for tax year 2017. Actual results will vary based on your tax situation.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Help and Support: Access to a TurboTax specialist is included with TurboTax Deluxe, Premier, Self-Employed and TurboTax Live; not included with Free Edition (but is available as an upgrade). TurboTax specialists are available to provide general customer help and support using the TurboTax product. SmartLook on-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, wait times, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Advice, Expert Review and TurboTax Live: Access to tax advice and Expert Review (the ability to have a Tax Expert review and/or sign your tax return) is included with TurboTax Live or as an upgrade from another version, and available through October 15, 2018. These services are provided only by credentialed CPAs, EAs or tax attorneys. State tax advice is free. Some tax topics or situations may not be included as part of this service, which shall be determined in the tax expert’s sole discretion. In the event your return is reviewed by a tax expert and requires a significant level of tax advice or actual preparation, the tax expert may be required to sign your return as the preparer at which point they will assume primary responsibility for the preparation of your return. Expert Review [and TurboTax Live] not available on the TurboTax mobile app or when using a web browser on your mobile phone. On-screen help is available on a PC, laptop or the TurboTax mobile app. Service, area of expertise, experience levels, wait times, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • Tax Return Access and My Docs features: Included with TurboTax Deluxe, Premier, Self-Employed, TurboTax Live or with PLUS benefits. Access to all tax-related documents we have on file for you is available through 10/31/2019. Terms and conditions may vary and are subject to change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2016 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • #1 rated online tax prep provider: Based on independent comparison of the best online tax software by TopTenReviews.com March 13, 2017.
  • Get tips based on your tax and credit data to help get you to where you want to be: Tax and credit data accessed upon your consent.
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2016 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies; may require a free Intuit online account. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2016 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2012 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.