SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- This year's tax filing deadline is less than two weeks away; it's April 17.

Last-minute filers can get assistance at a Hawaii Army Tax Center, open to all ranks, family members and retirees.

Preparers in North and South Oahu will provide free assistance in organizing and completing 2011 income tax forms:

•The Schofield Barracks Tax Center is open on an appointment-only basis, 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday, through April 19, at Building 648, next to the Sgt. Smith Theater.

•The Fort Shafter Tax Center is located in the Aloha Center; hours are 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays.

•For those who have been unable to file during regular business hours, the tax centers will be open for two "Panic Saturdays, " 9 a.m.- 2 p.m., April 7 and April 14, on a walk-in only basis.

•After April 19, tax center hours will be limited, but will remain open through November 2012 for Soldiers who are continuing to return home from deployment.

Many filers have lots of questions about their federal and state income taxes. The following frequently asked questions and answers concern the 2011 tax season. Answers are only provided as a general guide; they are not a substitute for professional tax advice.

Q: Do I get an extension to file if I deploy?

A: Soldiers and their spouses, if filing jointly, automatically get an extension to file their federal taxes when they are deployed. The extension equals 180 days plus the number of days left in the filing season when the Soldier entered the combat zone. The "filing season" is the period from Jan. 1-April when the return is due.

Q: Does my spouse need to do anything for the combat extension to be effective?

A: No. Nothing needs to be filed. If you receive any mail from the IRS, your spouse can write "COMBAT ZONE" across the top and mail it back to the IRS. You or your spouse can notify the IRS that you are deployed by emailing the Soldier's name, date of birth, home address and date of deployment to combatzone@irs.gov. Do not include any social security numbers.

Q: I am expecting a large refund and want my taxes filed while I am deployed. What are my options?

A: If you have all of your documents (W-2s, 1098s, 1099s, etc.), you can file before you go. Usually these documents are available by the end of January. If you have not received them, yet, contact your employers, banks, schools, mortgage lenders, etc., and ask them to send them to you.

If you are not yet ready to file, you can appoint a power of attorney to file your taxes on your behalf. If you do so, make sure that you trust the person (even if it is your spouse) to make the right decisions -- particularly regarding the bank account to which the refund will be sent.

You can get a notarized special power of attorney that specifically references tax preparation and filing, or complete IRS Form 2848, Power of Attorney or Declaration of Representative, which does not require a notary and can be downloaded directly from www.irs.gov.

You can also wait until you return from deployment. If you return after the tax center has closed for the season, you may make an appointment to have your taxes prepared through the Legal Assistance Office by calling 655-8607.

Q: How is domicile determined for state tax purposes?

A: It is a combination of physical presence in a state and the intent to permanently reside in a state. You cannot claim the domicile of your spouse just because you are married; you must personally meet the physical presence and intent tests.

Factors to consider include the state on the Soldier's DD Form 2058 (State of Legal Residence Certificate), where you are registered to vote, where you have a driver's license, where you own property, etc.

In short, you cannot claim a state if you have never been physically present in the state, and you should maintain as many ties as possible to the state that you do claim.

Q: What if I claim a state that I have never lived in?

A: Before changing your state of domicile, Soldiers are cautioned to consider the impacts of falsely claiming a state as the state of domicile. States with no income tax are attractive to many Soldiers, and we have many large military bases in some of those states, including Alaska and Texas.

If a Soldier claims one of those states without having been physically present in the state and without having the intent to permanently reside in that state, he/she could face fines, penalties, and civil or criminal charges from either his/her true domiciliary state or the state falsely claimed. Make sure you meet the physical presence and intent tests before making tax changes.

Q: What is the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act?

A: Under the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act, or MSRRA, spouses may claim the same domicile (home of record and/or state of residence for tax purposes) as the Soldier, provided certain conditions are met.

In general, the spouse must have had the same state of domicile as the Soldier, prior to the permanent change of station move. Each state has its own procedures for claiming protection under the MSRRA. Often, the spouse will be able to enjoy the refund of all state tax withheld by the nonresident state he/she worked in and was merely present in because of his/her spouse's military orders.

Tax Support

Soldiers, family members and retirees can schedule appointments for North and South Oahu by calling 655-1040. For a complete listing of what tax documents to bring to the Hawaii Army Tax Centers, visit www.facebook.com/hawaiiarmytaxcenters. The deadline to file 2011 state and federal income taxes is April 17.

Page last updated Fri April 6th, 2012 at 00:00