Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.



How Military Members Can Find a Good Tax Preparer

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

Many military members seek out assistance each year when it comes to tax time. Getting help with your taxes can keep your stress level down during tax season and make doing your return easy and painless. If you are in the military and looking for assistance in preparing your taxes, you do have options.

Free tax preparation
What some military members might not realize is that they and their families have the option of getting free assistance with their tax return under the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA. If you decide to get free assistance with your return, you will need to find a VITA location and set up an appointment. The tax preparers that offer their services are trained on specific tax issues that are relevant to military members. When you get assistance at a VITA location, generally you will file your taxes right there, electronically.

When I returned from serving in Iraq, I was not aware that this was an option. Not knowing where to go, we went to the local Wal-Mart and had one of those "drive thru" tax services do our taxes. They did the job, but all they did was fill in numbers. Needing more planning the following year, we opted to go to a local CPA.

Tips for finding a tax preparer on your own
If you decide you do not want to use VITA for tax preparation assistance, you can use these tips to help you find a good tax preparer.

  • Go on referrals. One of the best ways to find a good tax preparer is to find out who others use and like. In this case, it is probably best for you to ask others you know who are in the military. Find out who they use, as you will want to find an accountant that specializes in returns for military members. The CPA that we eventually chose had been recommended to me years before, so I was comfortable trying him out.
  • Be sure you check their qualifications. Finding a good tax preparer means finding someone who is qualified. Find out what their qualifications are, see if they are affiliated with professional organizations, check the better business bureau, etc. Also, make sure they are trained and qualified to do military tax returns.
  • Will the tax preparer be thorough? The last thing you want to do is to go with a tax preparer that will not do the work needed to get you the best return possible. Therefore, you want to make sure you chose one who will take the time to ask the right questions and collect the necessary data to maximize your return.
  • Find out the fees, before you get started. While you want to hire a good tax preparer, at the same time, you don't want to hire one that is going to cost you an arm and a leg. Your best bet is to find one that offers a flat fee and is in line with other tax preparers in the industry. Steer clear from those that want a percentage of your return or bonuses for getting you a higher return.

After you have chosen a tax preparer, whether you use VITA or find your own, be sure to review your return carefully before filing. Mistakes, even simple ones like your name being misspelled, can hold up and mess up your return. If you have any questions at all about what is or isn't on your return, ask your preparer questions until you are completely satisfied that everything is correct. Only then should you sign and submit your return. Finally, make sure you keep your return and any supporting documentation for a minimum of seven years.

Jeff Rose is an Iraqi combat veteran and Certified Financial Planner Professional who runs the well known financial planning blog Good Financial Cents. He is also working on his first book by combining the discipline of his Army training with the rigors of his financial planning experience to help people take control of their life and money. You can read more about it at Soldier of Finance.

Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. The Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2011, at 1:15 PM, pastreet wrote:

    Jeff, many times the military will also offer tax preparers on base that will prepare your simple tax return for free. Although this is probably not the best way to go if you have an elaborate return, it could work out if your return is simple: which most military members' returns likely are.

  • Report this Comment On January 22, 2015, at 10:34 AM, Hallese wrote:

    Folks, VITA is a joke, I tried to use it for the first time in when filing my taxes two years ago at Gulfport, MS, all they do is direct you to a computer that has the IRS e-file page already pulled up, tell you to select one of the sites, and punch in your numbers. I can do the same thing from home on a computer that isn't built with leftover parts from the Apollo program. Please stop pushing this "service." Providing a service should mean having qualified people there to offer real advice, not a squad of junior sailors who took a two hour online qualification course.

    Having said all that, Tax Law is not difficult and if you are in the military odds are you are not earning enough money to warrant spending any amount of money on a tax return because in this country in order to truly save money on your taxes, you have to have a large sum of money, hence why Warren Buffett pays less in taxes than a minimum wage earner at McDonald's. Use the IRS e-file site, choose a service provider, punch in the numbers, and away you go.

Add your comment.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1434972, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/27/2016 10:31:18 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 1 hour ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,169.68 -29.65 -0.16%
S&P 500 2,133.04 -6.39 -0.30%
NASD 5,215.97 -34.29 -0.65%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes