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Publication 3

Armed Forces' Tax Guide


What's New(p2)

Due date of return.(p2)
File Form 1040 by April 18, 2017. The due date is April 18, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia—even if you do not live in the District of Columbia.
Veterans with combat-related injuries. (p2)
If the Department of Defense (DOD) paid you severance pay after January 17, 1991, for combat-related injuries, taxes may have been improperly withheld. If taxes were improperly withheld, you should receive a notice by December 16, 2017, stating the amount of taxes improperly withheld, along with instructions on how to claim a credit or refund. Check Recent Developments at for more information as it becomes available.
Delayed refunds for returns claiming certain credits.(p2)
Due to changes in the law, the IRS can't issue refunds before February 15, 2017, for returns that claim the earned income credit and/or the additional child tax credit. This applies to the entire refund, not just the portion associated with these credits. If you claimed one of these credits, check after February 15, 2017, to check the status of your refund.
Service at local IRS offices by appointment.(p2)
Many issues can be resolved conveniently on with no waiting. However, if you need help from an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), you need to call to schedule an appointment. Go to to find the location and telephone number of your local TAC.
Delivery services.(p2)
DHL delivery services have been added to the list of private delivery services from which you can mail your federal income tax return. For the complete list of allowable private delivery services, see Private Delivery Services in your tax return instructions.
Cash payment option.(p2)
There is a new option for taxpayers whose only option is to pay their taxes in cash. A maximum of $1,000 per day per transaction is allowed. You can register for this cash payment option at
Educator expenses.(p2)
You may be able to deduct certain expenses related to professional development courses you have taken related to the curriculum you teach or to your students. See Line 23, Educator Expenses, in the Instructions for Form 1040.
Health coverage tax credit.(p2)
You may have received advance payments of the health coverage tax credit beginning in July 2016. For information on how to report these payments, see the Instructions for Form 8885.
Get Transcript Online.(p2)
The Get Transcript Online tool, which you use to order a copy of your tax transcripts and similar documents on, is available again. To guard against fraud, you will now need to go through a two-step authentication process. For more information, go to
Electronic Filing PIN.(p2)
Electronic Filing PIN, an IRS-generated PIN used to verify your signature on your self-prepared, electronic tax return, is no longer available. To validate your signature, you must use your prior-year adjusted gross income or prior-year self-select PIN. See Electronic Return Signatures in your tax return instructions.
Individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) renewal.(p2)
If you were assigned an ITIN before January 1, 2013, or, if you have an ITIN that you haven’t included on a tax return in the last three consecutive years, you may need to renew it. For more information, see the Instructions for Form W-7.
Employer Identification Number (EIN) needed to claim the American opportunity credit.(p2)
To claim the American opportunity credit, you need to have the employer identification number of the institution to which your qualified expenses were paid. See the Instructions for Form 8863.
Earned income credit.(p2)
The maximum income you can earn and still claim the earned income credit has increased. You may be able to take the earned income credit if you earned less than $47,955 ($53,505 for married filing jointly) if you have three or more qualifying children; $44,648 ($50,198 for married filing jointly) if you have two qualifying children; $39,296 ($44,846 for married filing jointly) if you have one qualifying child; and $14,880 ($20,430 for married filing jointly) if you do not have any qualifying children. See Earned Income Credit, later, under Credits.
Standard mileage rate.(p2)
The standard mileage rate for the cost of operating your car for business use in 2016 is 54 cents a mile. The standard mileage rate for operating your car during 2016 to get medical care or to move is 19 cents a mile. The standard mileage rate for charitable use of your vehicle is 14 cents a mile.
Secure access.(p3)
To combat identity fraud, the IRS has upgraded its identity verification process for certain self-help tools on To find out what types of information new users will need, go to


Change of address.(p3)
If you change your mailing address, be sure to notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) using Form 8822, Change of Address. Mail it to the Internal Revenue Service Center for your old address. (Addresses for the Service Centers are on the back of the form.) Use Form 8822-B, Change of Address or Responsible Party—Business, if you are changing a business address.
Third party designee.(p3)
You can check the "Yes" box in the Third Party Designee area of your return to authorize the IRS to discuss your return with your preparer, a friend, a family member, or any other person you choose. This allows the IRS to call the person you identified as your designee to answer any questions that may arise during the processing of your tax return. It also allows your designee to perform certain actions. See your income tax instructions for details.
Future developments.(p3)
For the latest information about developments related to Pub. 3, such as legislation enacted after it was published, go to
Photographs of missing children.(p3)
The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC). Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.


This publication covers the special tax situations of active members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
For federal tax purposes, the U.S. Armed Forces includes commissioned officers, warrant officers, and enlisted personnel in all regular and reserve units under control of the Secretaries of the Defense, Army, Navy, and Air Force. The U.S. Armed Forces also includes the Coast Guard. The Public Health Service also can receive many of the same tax benefits. The U.S. Armed Forces does not include the U.S. Merchant Marine or the American Red Cross.
Members serving in an area designated or treated as a combat zone are granted special tax benefits. In the event an area ceases to be a combat zone, the IRS will do its best to notify you. Many of the relief provisions will end at that time.

What is not covered in this publication.(p3)

This publication does not cover military pensions or veterans' benefits or give the basic tax rules that apply to all taxpayers. For information on military pensions or veterans' benefits, see Pub. 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income. If you need the basic tax rules or information on another subject not covered here, you can check our other free publications. See Pub. 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services, for a list and descriptions of the different tax publications.

Comments and suggestions.(p3)

We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can send us comments from Click on "More Information" and then on "Give us feedback."
Or you can write to:

Internal Revenue Service
Tax Forms and Publications
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526
Washington, DC 20224

We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.
Ordering forms and publications.(p3)
Visit to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.
Tax questions.(p3)
If you have a tax question not answered by this publication, check and How To Get Tax Help at the end of this publication.


Useful items

You may want to see:

 54 Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad
 463 Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses
 501 Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information
 503 Child and Dependent Care Expenses
 505 Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax
 516 U.S. Government Civilian Employees Stationed Abroad
 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
 521 Moving Expenses
 523 Selling Your Home
 525 Taxable and Nontaxable Income
 527 Residential Rental Property
 529 Miscellaneous Deductions
 559 Survivors, Executors, and Administrators
 590-A Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
 590-B Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
 596 Earned Income Credit (EIC)
 970 Tax Benefits for Education
 3920 Tax Relief for Victims of Terrorist Attacks
Form (and Instructions)
 1040X: Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
 1310: Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer
 2848: Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative
 3903: Moving Expenses
 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
 8822: Change of Address
 8822-B: Change of Address or Responsible Party—Business
 9465: Installment Agreement Request
See How To Get Tax Help near the end of this publication for information about getting IRS publications and forms.

Gross Income(p4)

Members of the Armed Forces receive many different types of pay and allowances. Some are included in gross income while others are excluded from gross income.

Items Included in Gross Income(p4)

You must report the items listed in Table 1 as gross income on your tax return unless the pay is for service in a combat zone. For pay for service in a combat zone, refer to Table 2. The items in Table 1 are taxable. The list in Table 1 is not exclusive. Also see Income Items of Special Interest, later.

Table 1. Items Included in Gross Income

These items are included in gross income, unless the pay is for service in a combat zone.

Basic pay• Active duty
 • Attendance at a designated service school
 • Back wages
 • Drills
 • Reserve training
 • Training duty
Special pay• Aviation career incentives
 • Career sea
 • Diving duty
 • Foreign duty (outside the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia)
 • Foreign language proficiency 
 • Hardship duty
 • Hostile fire or imminent danger
 • Medical and dental officers
 • Nuclear-qualified officers
 • Optometry
 • Other Health Professional Special Pays (for example, nurse, physician assistant, social work, etc.)
  • Pharmacy
 • Special compensation for assistance with activities of daily living (SCAADL)
 • Special duty assignment pay
 • Veterinarian
 • Voluntary Separation Incentive
Bonus pay• Career status
 • Continuation pay
  • Enlistment
   • Officer
 • Overseas extension
 • Reenlistment
Incentive pay• Submarine
 • Flight
 • Hazardous duty
 • High Altitude/Low Opening (HALO)
Other pay• Accrued leave
 • High deployment per diem
 • Personal money allowances paid to high-ranking officers
 • Student loan repayment from programs such as the Department of Defense Educational Loan Repayment Program when year's service (requirement) is not attributable to a combat zone
In-kind military benefits• Personal use of a government-provided vehicle

Items Excluded From Gross Income(p5)

Items in Table 2 are not includible in your gross income though you may have to report them on your income tax return. The list in Table 2 is not exclusive. See your tax return instructions for more information on specific items. Also see Income Items of Special Interest, later.

Combat pay.(p5)

You may also be able to exclude pay for service in a combat zone even though that pay would otherwise be taxable. For information on the exclusion of pay for service in a combat zone and other tax benefits for combat zone participants, see Combat Pay Exclusion and Are There Filing, Tax Payment, and Other Extensions Specifically for Those in a Combat Zone or a Contingency Operation, later.

Table 2. Items Excluded From Gross Income

The exclusion for certain items applies whether the item is furnished in kind or is a reimbursement or allowance.

Combat pay• Compensation for active service while in a combat zone (See Combat Pay Exclusion, later) Note: The exclusion for certain officers is limited. See Commissioned officers (other than commissioned warrant officers), later.
Other pay• Defense counsel services
 • Disability, including payments received for injuries incurred as a direct result of a terrorist or military action
 • Group-term life insurance
 • Professional education
 • ROTC educational and subsistence allowances
 • State bonus pay for service in a combat zone (See State bonus payments, later)
 • Survivor and retirement protection plan premiums
 • Uniform allowances
 • Uniforms furnished to enlisted personnel
Death allowances• Burial services
 • Death gratuity payments to eligible survivors
 • Travel of dependents to burial site
Family allowances• Certain educational expenses for dependents
 • Emergencies
 • Evacuation to a place of safety  
 • Separation
Living allowances• BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) (See also Can I deduct expenses paid with my excluded basic allowance for housing (BAH), later)
 • BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence)
 • Housing and cost-of-living allowances abroad paid by the U.S. Government or by a foreign government
 • OHA (Overseas Housing Allowance)
Moving allowances• Dislocation
 • Military base realignment and closure benefit (See Military base realignment and closure benefits, later)
 • Move-in housing
 • Moving household and personal items
 • Moving trailers or mobile homes
 • Storage
 • Temporary lodging and temporary lodging expenses
Travel allowances• Annual round trip for dependent students
 • Leave between consecutive overseas tours
 • Reassignment in a dependent restricted status
 • Transportation for you or your dependents during ship overhaul or inactivation
 • Per diem 
In-kind military benefits• Dependent-care assistance program
 • Legal assistance
 • Medical/dental care
 • Commissary/exchange discounts
 • Space-available travel on government aircraft

Income Items of Special Interest(p6)


Death gratuity to a survivor.(p6)

Any death gratuity paid to a survivor of a member of the Armed Forces is excluded from the survivor’s gross income.

Can I deduct expenses paid with my excluded basic allowance for housing (BAH)?(p6)

As noted in Table 2, BAH is excluded from income. This does not prevent you from deducting certain expenses paid for with your BAH. You can still deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on your home if you pay these expenses with your BAH.

Differential wage payments.(p7)

Differential wage payments are taxable. They are not treated as combat pay even if the individual was in a combat zone.
What are differential wage payments?(p7)
Differential wage payments are payments made by an employer (other than the Armed Forces) to an individual. They are paid for a period during which the individual performed services in the uniformed services while on active duty for a period of more than 30 days. These payments represent all or a portion of the wages the individual would have received from the employer if the individual had been performing services for the employer during that period.

Military base realignment and closure benefits.(p7)

Military base realignment and closure benefits paid under the Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) generally are excluded from income. However, for any property, the sum of all your payments can't be more than the maximum amount described in subsection (c) of 42 U.S.C. 3374 as in effect on November 6, 2009. You must include in income the excess over this maximum amount. For more information about the HAP, see

Qualified reservist distribution (QRD).(p7)

The portion of your QRD reported by your employer as wages on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, is included in your gross income and is taxable. The amount reported should be the QRD reduced by the after-tax contributions to your health flexible spending arrangement. This amount is also subject to employment taxes.
What is a QRD?(p7)
A QRD is a distribution to an individual of all or part of the individual's balance in a cafeteria plan or health flexible spending arrangement if:

Uniformed Services Traditional Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) distributions.(p7)

If you participate in the Uniformed Services Traditional TSP and receive a distribution from your account, the distribution is generally included in your taxable income unless your contributions included tax-exempt combat pay.
If your contributions included tax-exempt combat pay, the part of the distribution attributable to those contributions is tax exempt. However, the earnings on the tax-exempt portion of the distribution are taxable. The TSP will provide a statement showing the taxable and nontaxable portions of the distribution. For more information on TSP distributions, see TSP-536 (01/2016), Important Tax Information About Payments From Your TSP Account.

Roth Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) balance.(p7)

Roth TSP contributions are included in your income. They are after-tax contributions and are subject to the same contribution limits as the traditional TSP. Qualified distributions from a Roth TSP are not included in your income. For more details, see Thrift Savings Plan in Part II of Pub. 721, Tax Guide to U.S. Civil Service Retirement Benefits.
What is a Roth TSP balance? (p7)
The TSP known as the Roth TSP lets you invest in a designated Roth Account through a TSP. Your Roth TSP balance is the portion of your TSP you have designated as Roth. To learn more about Roth TSP balances, see TSP-536 (01/2016), Important Tax Information About Payments From Your TSP Account.

State bonus payments.(p7)

A state bonus payment will be treated as combat pay and may not be taxable if it is made because of your current or former service in a combat zone. See Combat Zone Defined, later, for a list of designated combat zones.
What are state bonus payments?(p7)
A state bonus payment is a bonus payment made to you or to your dependent(s) by a state (or a political subdivision of a state).

Foreign Source Income(p7)


What Is Foreign Source Income?(p7)

For U.S. citizens, foreign source income is income from sources outside the United States. This section only discusses the tax consequences for foreign source income of U.S. citizens.

Is My Foreign Source Income Taxable?(p7)

You must report all of your foreign source income on your tax return, except for those amounts that U.S. law specifically allows you to exclude. This is true whether you reside inside or outside the United States and whether or not you receive a Form W-2 or a Form 1099. This applies to earned income (such as wages and tips) as well as unearned income (such as interest, dividends, capital gains, pensions, rents, and royalties).
Some foreign income may be excluded, but these exclusions aren't available for wages and salaries of military and civilian employees of the U.S. Government. See more on these exclusions in Foreign earned income exclusion and American Samoa income exclusion below.

Foreign earned income exclusion.(p7)

Certain taxpayers can exclude income earned in foreign countries. For 2016, this exclusion amount can be as much as $101,300. However, the foreign earned income exclusion doesn’t apply to the wages and salaries of military and civilian employees of the U.S. Government. Employees of the U.S. Government include those who work at United States Armed Forces exchanges, commissioned and noncommissioned officers' messes, Armed Forces motion picture services, and similar personnel. Other foreign income earned by military personnel or their spouses may be eligible for the foreign earned income exclusion. For more information on the exclusion, see Pub. 54.

American Samoa income exclusion.(p8)

Residents of American Samoa may be able to exclude income from American Samoa. However, this possession exclusion doesn’t apply to wages and salaries of military and civilian employees of the U.S. Government. If you need information on this possession exclusion, see Pub. 570, Tax Guide for Individuals With Income From U.S. Possessions.

Community Property(p8)

The pay you earn as a member of the Armed Forces may be subject to community property laws depending on your marital status, the nature of the payment, and your domicile. These laws may affect how much of your income is included in your gross income for tax purposes. The community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Marital Status(p8)

Community property rules apply to married persons whose domicile during the tax year was in a community property state. These rules may affect your tax liability if you file separate returns or are divorced during the year.

Nature of the Payment(p8)

Active duty military pay is subject to community property laws. Armed Forces retired or retainer pay may be subject to community property laws.
For more information on community property laws, see Pub. 555, Community Property.


Your domicile is the permanent legal home you intend to use for an indefinite or unlimited period, and to which, when absent, you intend to return. It is not always where you presently live.

Domicile of civilian spouse. (p8)

If you are the civilian spouse of an active duty U.S. military servicemember and your domicile is the same as the servicemember's, you may be able to keep your prior residence or domicile for tax purposes when you accompany your spouse who relocated to a new duty station. See Pub. 570 for more information about this option, which is available under the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (MSRRA).

Nevada, Washington, and California Domestic Partners(p8)

A registered domestic partner in Nevada, Washington, or California generally must report half of his or her income plus half of the income of his or her domestic partner. See Form 8958 and Pub. 555.

Form W-2(p8)


What Information Can I Find on My Form W-2?(p8)

Form W-2 shows your total pay and other compensation and the income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax that was withheld during the year. Form W-2 also shows other amounts that you may find important in box 12.

What Do the Codes in Box 12 of Form W-2 Mean?(p8)

Box 12 shows amounts not listed in other places on the form. The amounts shown in box 12 are generally preceded by a code. A list of the codes used in box 12 is shown next.

Form W-2 Reference Guide for Box 12 Codes

AUncollected social security or RRTA tax on tipsK20% excise tax on excess golden parachute paymentsVIncome from exercise of nonstatutory stock option(s)
BUncollected Medicare tax on tips (but not Additional Medicare Tax)LSubstantiated employee business expense reimbursementsWEmployer contributions (including employee contributions through a cafeteria plan) to an employee's health savings account (HSA)
CTaxable cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000MUncollected social security or RRTA tax on taxable cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000 (former employees only)YDeferrals under a section 409A nonqualified deferred compensation plan
DElective deferrals to a section 401(k) cash or deferred arrangement plan (including a SIMPLE 401(k) arrangement)NUncollected Medicare tax on taxable cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000 (but not Additional Medicare Tax) (former employees only) ZIncome under a nonqualified deferred compensation plan that fails to satisfy section 409A
EElective deferrals under a section 403(b) salary reduction agreementPExcludable moving expense reimbursements paid directly to employeeAADesignated Roth contributions under a section 401(k) plan
FElective deferrals under a section 408(k)(6) salary reduction SEPQNontaxable combat payBBDesignated Roth contributions under a section 403(b) plan
GElective deferrals and employer contributions (including nonelective deferrals) to a section 457(b) deferred compensation plan REmployer contributions to an Archer MSADDCost of employer-sponsored health coverage
HElective deferrals to a section 501(c)(18)(D) tax-exempt organization planSEmployee salary reduction contributions under a section 408(p) SIMPLE planEEDesignated Roth contributions under a governmental section 457(b) plan
JNontaxable sick payTAdoption benefits  

Note. For more information on these codes, see your Form(s) W-2.