April 13, 2003
WASHINGTON -- One less worry for American troops fighting in Iraq: They won't have to file their tax returns by next Tuesday's deadline.
Treasury Secretary John Snow said service personnel will get an automatic extension on their filing deadline and also will have pay earned while they are in a combat zone excluded from income taxes.
"Relieving members of the military and their families from concerns about their taxes is a small token of the appreciation we owe them," Snow said.
Snow said the types of tax relief are spelled out in an Internal Revenue Service Notice 2003-21, which is available on the IRS web site, www.irs.gov.
Many in the military were deployed before they could file, IRS spokesman Anthony Burke said. He suggested families of military personnel e-mail or call the IRS with the soldier's or sailor's name, address, date of birth and date of deployment.
"Because of the rapid deployment, we have no way of knowing they're there," he said.
The extension also applies to civilian workers in combat zones, including Red Cross medics and accredited correspondents. Those who qualify should write "Combat Zone" at the top of forms they file.
This is not the first time the IRS has granted military extensions. Congress approved a similar rule for troops during the first Persian Gulf War, and troops fighting in Afghanistan were able to claim extensions by marking their tax forms "Enduring Freedom."
But not everyone will want to take the extensions, said Barbara Pietrowski, an accountant whose son is fighting in Iraq.
"If you want to get a refund soon, have people file your taxes now," said the Kensington, Md., resident.
She advises those in the military to set up online banking so they can pay bills and check their accounts when they have access to computers.
The IRS last week created a new section on its Web site to explain tax benefits to members of the Armed Forces. And there might be more financial benefits on the way.
The House approved a bill Tuesday to defer student loans for active-duty troops, while asking colleges to give tuition refunds and help readmit students who were pulled out of school to serve in the military. The Senate has yet to consider the bill.
-- Information from Knight Ridder was used in this report.