Members of the United States armed forces are often deployed outside of the U.S. when tax time rolls around. This can make it difficult to file a tax return or make tax payments on time. The Internal Revenue Service recognizes this fact and gives many military and support personnel an extension on their tax deadlines.
Military service that qualifies for extensions
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces qualify for tax extensions when:
- Serving in a combat zone
- Serving outside of a combat zone, in direct support of military operations in a combat zone
- On deployment while participating in a contingency operation
- Hospitalized outside of the U.S. due to an injury or disease contracted while serving in a combat zone or contingency operation
- Missing in action or a prisoner of war as a result of serving in a combat zone or contingency operation
The president designates areas as combat zones by executive order. Combat zones are areas where the Armed Forces have engaged or are engaging in combat. Contingency operations are designated by the secretary of defense or by a call to duty that results from Congress or the president declaring war or a national emergency.
Deadlines that are extended
The military extension affects the deadlines for several tax-related actions, including:
- Filing tax returns, including income and employment returns
- Making tax payments, including income and employment taxes
- Making a qualified contribution to an IRA account
- Filing for a tax refund or claiming a credit
- Responding to IRS notices and inquiries
Length of extensions
The extension related to military service is 180 days from the last day of qualifying service or hospitalization, plus the number of days you had left to file when you began qualifying service.
For example, if you began serving in a combat zone on April 1, 2015 you had 15 days until your 2014 filing deadline. You will then have 195 days from your last day of service to file the 2014 return and pay any taxes due, or 180 days plus the 15 remaining from April 2015.
Extensions for support personnel
Non-military people working in a combat zone or contingency operation to support the armed forces also qualify for the military tax extensions. Red Cross personnel and merchant marines serving on Department of Defense-controlled vessels qualify as support personnel. Also qualifying are correspondents with accreditation and civilians working under the direction of the armed forces.
Extensions for spouses and dependents
If you qualify for an extension, your spouse and dependents also qualify. You do not have to file a joint return. Your spouse will qualify even if you file separate returns. The spouse and dependent exemption does not apply while you are hospitalized within the U.S. for a qualifying service-related injury. It also does not apply to the tax year that starts two years after an area where you qualified for the extension ceases to be a combat zone or contingency operation.