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Federal Income Tax Filing Extensions For Military Members

What follows is not tax advice. When in doubt, consult a tax professional.

If you are in the United States military and need to apply for a tax extension for filing federal income taxes, you must apply for the extension by April 15. For some military members, tax season is tricky. Challenges with deployments, permanent change of station orders, or serving abroad can affect your ability to gather needed documents on time, especially if you are serving in a combat zone or are at sea.

Fortunately, the IRS offers options to apply for extensions for qualifying military members.

File an Extension Before April 15

If you already know you need an extension, apply for one before the IRS deadline of April 15, by downloading, filing and submitting IRS Form 4868. Follow the instructions on the form to extend your time by six months, creating a new due date of October 15, 2024, including those who are married and filing jointly.

However, to avoid interest, taxpayers should make a payment before the original deadline.

Related: Military Benefits Guide

Tax Filers At Overseas Military Bases

For those stationed overseas, there is an automatic two-month extension without filing any additional forms as long as an explanation is included and a copy of military orders showing location is provided. The extended tax filing deadline in this case is good until June 15.

After June 15, those needing a further extension can request an additional four-months.

The extensions only apply to filing taxes, not payments, so those who owe taxes must make a payment before the original deadline to avoid interest later. If you are unsure of what you owe, complete your Form 4868 to determine what you need to pay and submit it before the April 15 deadline.

Only those who are located and serving in a combat zone or have extenuating circumstances caused by their station or mission have an automatic extension for both filing and paying their taxes if owed.

How Long The Extension Lasts

This deadline extension lasts 180 days after departing the combat zone unless the status of said zone changes, the status of the contingency operation or the tax filer receies injuries while serving there, resulting in hospitalization.

If you are redeployed during your six-month combat zone extension, you can re-extend your deadline if necessary.

All extensions except the combat zone extension allow for a later filing date but will not extend the deadline to pay taxes owed. Therefore, it is still necessary to make payment arrangements on time. Late payments can result in penalties of five to twenty-five percent of taxes owed.

Related: Military Benefits Guide

Extended Federal Income Tax Filing Deadlines

  • April 15-Standard deadline
  • June 17-The deadline for military members serving outside the US and Puerto Rico with an automatic 2-month extension
  • October 15-The 6-month extension deadline with Form 4868
  • After October 15-Combat zone and contingency operation extensions apply

Answers to additional Combat Zone Extension questions can be found on the IRS website, including how to know if your combat pay can be excluded from taxable income.

For additional help, research military tax benefits using the IRS Publication 3: Armed Forces Tax Guide. In advance, reach out to see if your spouse needs a power of attorney if you are stationed far away to file on time or if you have extenuating circumstances. Also, review any documentation for credits that may help you get a better refund or owe less for the April 15 deadline, including:

  • Child tax credit
  • Child and dependent care credit
  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit
  • Adoption of a child
  • Unreimbursed moving expenses
  • Transportation and parking
  • Standard mileage rates
  • Capital gains taxes for military homeowners

If you need assistance in filing, many bases have a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance center on base to visit in person. Your W-2 and related tax statements can be found through the DOD myPay official site.

Related: Military Benefits Guide

About the author

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Kena Sosa is an award-winning author, filmmaker and percussionist. She
earned her BA from OLLU and her MBEGT from SMU. She published two
award-winning children’s books. Kena has written for CBS/DFW Local and
Multicultural Review Magazine. She was the Guest Editor for the Fall/Winter
2023 ChildArt Magazine issue. Kena has written for Recon Media since 2023.