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If you racked up any long-distance phone bills the past three years, the IRS has a bit of good news for you.

Among tax law changes this year is a one-time refund for federal tax paid on long-distance calls or bundled services — plans that don’t separate local and long-distance charges — from Feb. 28, 2003, to Aug. 1, 2006.

The IRS is offering a standard deduction of $30 to $60 depending on the number of exemptions claimed on your return.

If you still have the bills you can itemize the expense, said Elaine Reeves, chief tax adviser at the Combined Army and Air Force Tax Center on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

“It’s easier to take the IRS standard” deduction, she said, plus it avoids gathering months and months of old phone bills.

According to the IRS, taking the standard deduction requires filling out one additional line on a return. People who itemize need to fill out and attach Form 8913 to their returns.

Reeves advised, “Even if you had no other reason to file, you should file for this.” For more information, go to www.irs.gov and follow the link for Telephone Excise Tax Refund.

Among other law changes affecting 2006 taxes owed this April, according to Reeves and the IRS:

ExemptionsBoth standard and personal exemptions increased.

Personal exemptions increased from $3,200 to $3,300 for each person claimed on a return. The standard joint deduction increased by $300 to $10,300. Deductions for those who are single and for couples filing separately increased to $5,150 per person. The head-of- household standard deduction increased to $7,550.

For these and other inflation-related increases, go to www.irs.gov and follow the link for 2006 Inflation Adjustments Widen Tax Brackets, Change Tax Benefits.

Charitable donationsCharitable donations now require more paperwork. Any cash donations made after Aug. 17 must be supported by a dated bank record or receipt. Clothing and household donations made after this date must have been in “good used condition or better.”

For additional guidelines regarding charitable contributions, review IRS news release IR-2006-192 at www.irs.gov.

Refund funPeople now can deposit refunds in up to three bank or investment accounts — theoretically an encouragement to save more.

Guidelines for splitting a refund deposit can be reviewed at www.irs.gov/individuals/article/ 0,,id=164570,00.html.

IRA limits raisedSeveral IRA and retirement limits were raised; one increase specifically benefits servicemembers who’ve served in combat zones.

Military members serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones now can “count tax-free combat pay when figuring how much to contribute to a Roth or traditional IRA,” according to the IRS.

In the past, because combat pay was nontaxable, military members were barred from putting this money into an IRA.

The change is retroactive to 2004. The deadline for making contributions for 2004 and 2005 is May 28, 2009.

Eligible servicemembers who have already filed 2004 and 2005 returns, and who make back-year contributions, must report them on an amended return using Form 1040X. For more information, go to www.irs.gov and review IRS news release IR-2006-129.

EducationSelf-paid tuition and related expenses incurred at an eligible educational institute for you, your spouse or dependents also may be deductible.

This applies only to tuition and fees required for attendance at the educational institution. Not deductible: personal expenses such as room and board, even if these expenses are required by the institution as a condition of enrollment.

The tuition and fees deduction could reduce taxable income by up to $4,000.

Any college, university, vocational school or other postsecondary educational institute that can take part in a Department of Education-run, student-aid program is considered eligible.

Because this lowers the income on which you pay taxes, you don’t have to itemize to claim the deduction — but there are some limits. For example, you can’t claim higher-education expenses as an income adjustment if you claim them elsewhere, for example as a business expense. For further guidelines, visit www.irs.gov to review Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

Foreign earned incomeAccording to tax attorney Jane Bruno on the American Citizens Abroad Web site, one change not as beneficial to some taxpayers as it first may seem is the foreign earned income tax exclusion, which increased from $80,000 to $82,400.

Reeves said contractors here can earn up to $82,400 now before they have taxable income. Legislation also increased the maximum foreign housing exclusion to $11,536 for 2006.

However, Bruno points out, how tax is calculated on the remaining taxable income also has changed. Formerly, tax was calculated only on the taxable income remaining after the exclusions.

Now, according to the IRS, if you claim either or both exclusions, you must figure your tax on the rates “that would have applied had you not claimed the exclusions.”

Bruno said this means some Americans living abroad “will see their U.S. taxes rise dramatically.”

For further guidelines regarding who can claim this exemption, go to www.irs.gov and review IRS Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.

Documents you’ll needMilitary Identification Card.Social Security cards for all family members and dependents you are claiming on your tax return.Birth dates for all family members and dependents on the tax return.Current year’s tax package if you have one.Wage and earning statement Form W-2, W-2G or 1099-R from all employers.Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099).Copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available.Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit.Total paid for day care and day care provider’s identifying information.Source: 3rd Marine Logistics Group Tax Center

Need help?SaseboNaval Base: The Tax Center in the Navy Legal Service Office, the first floor of building PW47, is open by appointment only on Tuesdays through Fridays. For an appointment, call 252-2117. The center still needs volunteers to help process tax forms. To volunteer, call 252-3347. The center is open through June 15.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni: The Iwakuni Tax Center in building 608 (Station Judge Advocate’s Office) is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays in February. Call 253-3540 or 253-5962 for more information.

YokosukaNaval Base: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. through June 15. The center is located on the second floor of Building 39A. Call 243-6465, for more information.

Naval Air Facility Atsugi: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Center will be open through April 13 and is located at Building 174. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 264-4015.

Yokota Air Base: The Yokota Tax Center is open Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. until June 15 on the first floor of Building 315 in Yokota’s legal office. It’s closed on weekends and holidays. Through Feb. 15, the center is accepting walk-ins who are filing 1040EZ tax forms only. Appointments, which will be limited during exercises, are required after that date. Call DSN 225-4927.

Misawa Air Base: The Misawa Tax Center in Building 514 opens Monday. Office hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-in hours are on Friday, for 1040A and 1040EZ forms. The other days are by appointment only. Call DSN 226-3948.

Okinawa

CampFoster: The 3rd Marine Logistics Group Tax Center at Building 437 is open for walk-ins Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment Mondays and Tuesdays from 3 to 7:30 p.m. until April 13. From April 16 to June 15, walk-ins hours will be Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 8 to 11 a.m. Call DSN 645-4829.

Kadena Air Base: The Combined Army and Air Force Tax Center in Building 1460 on Wilkins Street is open for walk-ins and appointments Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays for appointments only and priority will be given to commanders and Department of Defense Dependents Schools members. Call DSN 634-7784.

South Korea

AREA I

Camp Casey: The Division Tax Assistance Center at Maude Hall, Building 2440, is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call DSN 730-3598.

Camp Red Cloud: The new Mobile Tax Assistance Center will be open Tuesdays from March 6 to April 25 at Freeman Hall’s Legal Assistance Office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Camp Stanley: The Mobile Tax Assistance Center will be open Wednesdays from March 6 to April 25 in Building 2305, the Camp Stanley Legal Center building, located at the top of the hill behind the post exchange, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

AREA II

Yongsan Garrison: Moyer Community Activities Center’s tax center is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call DSN 725-1040

AREA III

Camp Humphreys: The tax center is open in Building S-262 across from the Community Activities Center. It is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday by appointment only; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call DSN 753-3905.

AREA IV

Camp Henry: The tax center is open at Building 1805 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call DSN 768-6680.

Camp Carroll: The tax center is open at Building T-125 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call DSN 765-7136.

AIR FORCE

Osan Air Base: The tax center is located at Building 788, Room 26. Call DSN 784-8935.

Kunsan Air Base: The tax center is open at Building 755, Room 302, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments are required and will be given on a first-call, first-served basis. Call DSN 782-1250.

You've got extra time

For most Americans, April 17 is the deadline this year for filing income tax returns. But U.S. citizens living overseas can qualify for an automatic extension until June 15.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, people living and working outside the United States or Puerto Rico qualify for the extension. Servicemembers assigned overseas for a period that includes the entire due date of the return also qualify.

To use the extension, you must attach a statement to your return that shows you met the qualifications.

However, if you owe Uncle Sam, he wants his money by April 17, even if you file the tax return later.

“If you owe money to the federal government, you have to pay by the appointed filing date of April 17 or you will have to pay penalties or interest,” said Air Force Col. Albert W. Klein Jr., 18th Wing staff judge advocate.

“If you don’t have the paperwork to go ahead and file, then send what you think you are going to owe in order to avoid the penalties,” Elaine M. Reeves, the chief tax adviser at the Combined Army and Air Force Tax Center on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa,

If you send in more than you owe, you will be able to get the excess back, she said.

The exception: troops serving in combat zones. They also qualify for filing extensions, but they won’t be penalized if they owe the government but don’t pay by April 17.

Deployed troops have from the date they entered a combat zone until April 17 plus 180 days to file and pay, Klein said.

— Cindy Fisher

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