WASHINGTON - As tax season nears, Military OneSource and H&R Block have joined forces again to provide a free online tax preparation service for service members.
During an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel, Tony Jackson, a program analyst for the Military OneSource program office, detailed the services available for troops and their families.
"Military OneSource is a gateway to a free tax preparation service, partnered with H&R Block," he said. "We also have tax consultants who can provide assistance, whether it's seeking and filling out tax forms or any other tax-related information."
Jackson said it is a safe and secure way for service members to prepare their taxes online.
"Military OneSource and H&R block definitely meet industry standards for security for websites," he said. "Also, encryption software [is used], and there's also no selling of information, so service members and family members can be assured that their information is secure, and it stays within Military OneSource and H&R Block."
Jackson noted that two services, basic and premium, are provided through H&R Block, with one notable difference. The basic service is free, he said, and the premium service would apply to taxpayers who must file Schedule C returns, generally to report gains or losses from business ownership.
"When you [start] getting into premium, ... you're going to incur some additional costs, where basic is free," Jackson said. "But if you have Schedule C tax issues, that's when you'd go to the premium. Again, the key point there is you do incur additional costs if you have to use the premium."
For those not sure which service they should use, Jackson encouraged them to use the Military OneSource website as a guide. The site lists answers to frequently asked questions, he said.
"You can always contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647," Jackson said. "We're open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so any questions you have, you can use the website or the call center at the [toll-free] number."
Jackson said both methods are effective in contacting Military OneSource tax consultants offering useful services for troops and their families.
"Not only do they provide forms and basic information relative to military-specific tax issues and questions, they are a gateway to get you to H&R Block," he said. "If your tax situation warrants, they'll get you to a volunteer income tax assistance clinic on your local military installation or larger command. It's one-stop shopping."
These tax consultants cannot prepare tax forms or direct people to do anything, Jackson said. Everything is on a recommended basis.
All members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are eligible to use the service, he said, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, regardless of activation status.
Coast Guard reservists activated under Title 10 authority to serve with the Navy also are eligible, he added, and so are spouses and other family members enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
"Family members that have been designated to provide support to deployed service members, medically discharged retirees and discharged service members [within] 180 days of their discharge date are eligible for Military OneSource services," Jackson added.
The key to these services is financial readiness, which is a Defense Department priority, Jackson said.
"We understand that financial readiness is a readiness issue," he said. "If you have a service [member] who's concerned about their financial situation then that detracts from the mission."
Jackson also provided his personal testament to using the free tax preparation program, having served on active duty in the Marine Corps as a personnel officer for more than 20 years. He said his family still uses the service.
"In fact, I have a daughter right now who is currently a military spouse, and she continues to use it as well," he said.
This program's ultimate goal, Jackson said, is to ensure service members and their families know that Military OneSource is an option.
"We hope it's the first option ... for getting your taxes prepared or answering any questions or issues you have with taxes," he said. "Just know that Military OneSource is there to help you."