2019 Tax Season Tips and Updates

  • Published
  • By Capt. Alex Ricciardone, 439th Airlift Wing Judge Advocate Office
Tax season is in full swing and there are plenty of changes newly in effect this year which Service members and their families need to be aware of. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 along with the 2018 Veterans Benefits and Transition Act bring several large benefits but also eliminate some deductions that previously were available to Service members. The DoD is continuing to sponsor its popular MilTax program to help Service members navigate their filings and ensure their taxes are filed timely and accurately. New residency benefits for spouses. The 2018 Service members Civil Relief provides that Service members’ spouses can elect to use the same residence for purposes of taxation as the Service member, regardless of the date on which the marriage of the spouse and Service member took place. Previously, if a spouse was a resident of California and the Service member was a resident of Florida, the spouse would have to file a California tax return and pay tax to California for any income the spouse earned. This is no longer the case. So long as the Service member and the spouse were married by 31 December 2018, the spouse is not required to file a tax return or pay any tax to her home state if he or she elects the residency of his or her Service member’s home state. The two times the spouse would need to file a state tax return in his or her home state is if he or she physically worked in the home state (and therefore would still be subject to the local tax) or he or she had taxes withheld or made estimated payments to that state and wanted to obtain a full refund of all taxes paid. Reserve & Guard lose some drill deductions. Previously, all Reserve Component members were able to deduct their unreimbursed travel, lodging and 50% of their meals when they performed duty. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 changed that to only allow the deduction for members who drive more than 100 miles each way to and from their duty station. This deduction is no longer allowed to be itemized as a “miscellaneous expense” but has its own dedicated line on the Form 1040. Tax help! There is almost no reason for a Service member to pay anyone or any company to complete his or her taxes. For several years the DoD has sponsored its MilTax program in connection with Military One Source. Simply log onto militaryonesource.mil and click the MilTax banner. You will be connected to first-rate tax software along with access to tax pros who can provide online and telephone guidance to help you with most complex tax situations. If you need even more help, Military One Source will connect you with in-person support at a local installation. For further information on any tax issues, please contact the Westover Legal Office at 413-589-3513.