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Taxpayers living and working overseas for the Defense Department may turn to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance center or the legal office at their installation for tax help.

Taxpayers living and working overseas for the Defense Department may turn to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance center or the legal office at their installation for tax help. (Nataliya Vaitkevich/Pexels)

The 2021 tax season is here, and with it a flurry of taxing questions for service members, civilians and their families serving their country overseas.

Should I enter my APO address or my stateside address on my tax return? Must I even file a state return? Can I change my state of residence to one without income taxes?

Taxpayers living and working for the Defense Department in places like Japan may turn to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance center or the legal office at their installation for reliable answers.

“The VITA Tax Center prepares free tax returns for military members, civilian employees, retirees, and their dependents, who qualify for legal assistance from the Air Force,” Capt. Joshua Smith, chief of legal assistance at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, said in a recent email to Stars and Stripes.

And, yes, Smith said, taxpayers should use their APO addresses on their state and federal returns while living overseas. U.S. citizens overseas qualify for a two-month extension to the tax-filing deadline, he said.

Besides base tax centers, Military OneSource, a DOD website at militaryonesource.mil that supports military and family members globally, provides free filing software and a step-by-step guide to help you through your taxes. The site uses MilTax, a DOD-approved electronic tax filing and support service.

The site also provides guidance on changes to the tax code and filing requirements that affect the 2021 tax year.

Stimulus payments and other efforts by the U.S. government to shore up the economy and help Americans financially during the coronavirus pandemic may mean a break for some taxpayers. Other payments, such as unemployment benefits, have their own reporting requirements.

For example, the child tax credit was expanded for 2021 to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for ages 6 to 17. Eligible families automatically received monthly payments from July 15 through December 2021, totaling half the credit. They may claim the other half in their 2021 tax returns, according to Military OneSource.

Some bases offer legal help but do not have a tax center. Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, for example, does not have a tax center, but its legal office endorses Military OneSource as an option.

Taxpayers can also use Military OneSource at some tax centers, like Yokota’s, but the service is not directly part of the center’s operations.

“The tax center services are separate from Military OneSource, but we are able to assist anyone who utilizes Military OneSource if they have tax law questions while processing their returns,” Smith said in his email.

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Juan King is a reporter, photographer and web editor at Yokota Air Base, Japan. He joined the U.S. Navy in 2004 and has been assigned to Stars and Stripes since 2021.
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