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The Lemoore Navy News

The Naval Air Station Lemoore (NASL) VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Tax Center provides tax filing assistance at no cost to military members. The Tax Center is located at the NASL Legal Office at 730 Enterprise Blvd. and will be open from Tuesday, Jan. 23, until Tuesday, April 17. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays. Hours are subject to change if the Legal Office is closed. No appointments are necessary.

Active duty members whose returns involve more than W-2s and interest income, with an Adjusted Gross Income of over $62,000, or with more than one state to file returns in must set up an account with MilitaryOneSource prior to visiting the VITA Tax Center. The website is http://bit.ly/2n3lPCk.

I sat down with Jim Maciel, VITA Tax Center site coordinator and volunteer Stefie Shen to get the answers to important questions involving this year’s tax season.

Q: What information do I need to bring with me to file my taxes with VITA Tax Center assistance?

A: A photo I.D., W2s, interest statements (Such as 1098 for mortgages, or 1098-E for student loans), social security cards, a copy of the previous year's return, and any other pertinent documents.

Q: My spouse is deployed until after tax season ends. Should I file as single, married, or married filing separately?

A: In nearly all circumstances, it’s better for a married couple to file as married filing jointly. This is especially true if you are paying student loans, have education expenses, or children.

Q: Speaking of deployment, will I need a Power of Attorney (POA) to file our joint return?

A: You will not need a POA if you file online.

Q: I began my naval career in August of 2017. Who should claim the exemption, me or my parents?

A: If your parents provided more than half of your support in 2017, they should claim the exemption. If they choose not to, the exemption is lost and you are NOT entitled to claim it.

Q: I filed my taxes online, and I’m not sure I filed my state taxes correctly. What should I do?

A: This happens quite frequently. Bring your tax return, along with the user ID and password for the website you used to the VITA Tax Center. We will review it with you and if any changes are necessary, we will help you file an amended return.

Q: Congress passed and the President signed a major change in the Income Tax Code in December. Does this have any effect on my 2017 tax return that will be filed this year?

A: No. Only income and expenses earned after December 31, 2017, will be subject to the new law. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plans to have new withholding tables reflecting the changes in the law by February. You will probably see the effects this has on your pay around mid-February.

Q: I heard that California has an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) similar to the Federal EITC. Can I claim it?

A: California does have an EITC similar to the Federal EITC, and its purpose is to provide lower-income taxpayers with some additional funds. To see if you qualify, go to FTB.CA.gov and put EITC in the search window or come by the VITA Tax Center with information about your total income and number of children. We can assist you here.

Q: Why is it important for me to have my Adjusted Gross Income from my 2016 tax return or my five-digit PIN?

A: The IRS will not accept any online Tax Returns without one or the other. If you and your spouse filed separate returns last year, you will need to provide the numbers that were on both returns. This is just one way the IRS is attempting to reduce identity theft.

Q: One of my shipmates gets a much larger refund every year, and we are both single with identical ranks. What am I doing wrong?

A: You are probably doing nothing wrong. If you both look at your LES (Leave and Earnings Statement), you will probably see a difference in the number of exemptions being claimed, and this will affect the amount of withholding. Some people like to have as much “spending money” as possible, so they set up their LES to take out smaller amounts of withholding each paycheck. Others prefer to have a larger refund after they file their income tax. In the end, identical income with identical deductions and exemptions will result in identical income tax owed.

Q: What is the SCRA and how will it affect filing my tax return?

A: The SCRA is the Servicemember Civil Relief Act. The Act protects active duty members from being taxed by multiple states on their military income, and it allows you to keep your domicile (home of record) as the state you will be subject to taxes in. This is especially beneficial if your home of record does not have a state income tax or provides special allowances for active duty military income.

Q: My spouse works. Do they have to pay taxes to the state I’m stationed in?

A: The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) states that as long as both spouses have the same home of record, the spouse of an active duty member can have their civilian income taxed by their home of record state. Again, this is beneficial if your home of record does not have state income tax.

Q: A friend told me that because I am claiming the EITC and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), it’s going to take a long time for me to get my refund this year. Is that true?

A: The IRS will not be processing any refund claiming the EITC and ACTC until mid-February, which means you will not see your refund until at least February 27. This is because the IRS has implemented new processing rules to cut down on the number of fraudulent claims.

Q: A tax preparation service in town is offering an early tax refund anticipation loan if I have my taxes done by them. Should I do it?

A: While taking the loan may seem like a good idea, especially if you are expecting a significant refund, it will likely come with high-interest rates and tax preparation fees. The VITA Tax Center will help you prepare your loan at no cost, and it will only take a few more weeks to get your return.

Additional questions can be directed to 707-1601 or jimmaciel66@gmail.com.

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