Most military members that have served in a combat zone know that they have an extension for filing their income tax. The barracks lawyers and finance folks on base will let you know about that. But what a lot of military members don’t know is that essentially all deadlines with the IRS are extended when you serve in a combat zone. (By the way, these rules also apply to Red Cross personnel, accredited correspondents and civilian personnel acting under the direction of the Armed Forces in support of forces in a combat zone…these folks need to be in the combat zone too). So just which deadlines can you extend? Here are some of the big ones:
- Filing any return of income, estate, gift, employment, or excise tax. This is the one that most of us are aware of.
- Paying any income, estate, gift, employment, or excise tax. Again, common knowledge amongst military folks.
- Making a qualified retirement contribution to an IRA. I’d say that this one is a big deal. Life gets pretty hectic when you are deployed (like I have to tell you that), you may not get around to making an IRA contribution and with the Combat Zone Exclusion, you may have a little extra money to do it. The IRS gives you extra time to get it done.
- Collection by the IRS of any tax due. Owe back taxes? You don’t have to pay until after you get back
- Filing a claim for a refund or credit. One scenario where this would apply is if you want to file an amended tax return (1040X)
So, there are some pretty good deals here. The other question is how long can you extend the deadline? Well that is a little bit more complicated.
- 180 days. The first portion is 180 days from your last day in the combat zone (or hospital if injured in the combat zone)
- Plus additional days. You can also add the number of days you lost to complete the action because you were deployed. For example, if you deploy on 1 January for 270 days you would get an additional 105 days (for a total of 285) to file your tax return because you have from 1 Jan – 15 Apr to file the return
The examples here are not all-inclusive and as with everything with the IRS, there are other rules as well (such as the definition of qualifying deployments). A competent tax advisor should be able to help you determine your eligibility and how much time you have. If you are a “do it yourselfer” check out IRS Pub 3 which covers this and other military related tax issues.