'Tis The Season... Tax Season, That Is!

'Tis The Season... Tax Season, That Is!

By Sgt. 1st Class Kryn Westhoven

JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs

Less than two months. Just over seven weeks. Fifty-three days to go. No matter how you remind yourself, the April 17 deadline to file your 2011 taxes is fast approaching. You read that correctly; April One Seven, but having two extra days doesn’t mean you have additional time to procrastinate.

To successfully complete the mission of filing your tax returns, it is like any other. Preparation is plays an important role in making the process faster and lessens the potential for errors.

There is some basic information you will need for filing. Have social security numbers and dates of birth for you, your spouse and dependents. Now gather up receipts or records for real estate taxes, education, child care and adoption costs. Gather up your medical and dental expenses, charitable donations or alimony information, if any of those situations apply to you.

You should have received in the mail or retrieved online the various forms you need to file with your return. Your W-2 is available at the following site:

https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx

Married service members will need their spouses’ W-2s if they worked in 2011.

Then there is the family of 1099 forms. The number 1099 is followed by letters to indicate where the money is coming from; for example, 1099-INT records bank account interest and 1099-MISC shows any miscellaneous income. You might have a Form 1098-E for student loan interest or Form 1098 for home mortgage interest that will need to be accounted for.

Remember a deployment or permanent change of station to Joint Task Force Guantanamo does not entitle you to Combat Zone Exclusion, so all your pay is taxable, to include hazardous duty and imminent danger pay. There is a chart of items included in gross income along with a chart of exclusions in the 30 pages of the Armed Services Tax Guide, which is available at the Internal Revenue Service’s website:

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p3.pdf

Before filing your federal income tax return, you should be aware of a few important tax changes that took effect last year.

First, the standard deduction increased for some taxpayers who do not itemize deductions on IRS Schedule A (Form 1040); the amount varies depending on your filing status. Also, the amount you can deduct for each exemption has increased to $3,700 for 2011.

Last year, the rates for mileage were different for Jan. 1 through June 30 than for July 1 through Dec. 31. Medical and moving mileage are both 19 cents per mile for the early half of the year and 23 ½ cents in the latter half. For business use of your car, you start at 51 cents and jump to 55 ½ cents for the second half.

For those who qualify for the alternative minimum tax (AMT), the exemption amount increased to $48,450 or $74,450 if married and filing jointly. The additional tax on distributions from health or medical savings accounts not used for qualified medical expenses increased to 20 percent in 2011.

If you converted or rolled over an amount from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA or designated Roth in 2010 and did not elect to report the taxable amount on your 2010 return, you generally must report half of it on your 2011 return and the rest on your 2012 return.

And finally, if you will be mailing in your return the IRS changed the filing location for several areas, so check the Form 1040 instructions for the correct address.

Check www.IRS.gov before you file for updates on any new legislation that may affect your tax return. Next week we will look at what resources are available to Troopers at Joint Task Force Guantanamo to assistance in tax preparation.