Tips for filing taxes overseas

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- An article about taxes already? With Christmas just around the corner, filing a U.S. tax return is probably the last thing on people's minds. However, now's the time to lay the groundwork to make life easier during the upcoming tax season. Listed below are some of the more common issues that can have significant impacts on your one's ability to file federal taxes.

What if I'm married and I will be filing taxes for both myself and my spouse? If you're married and you plan to file on behalf of your family, you will need your spouse to complete an IRS Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative. The Form 2848 must contain your spouse's original signature, but doesn't need to be notarized. This form can also be obtained from the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov/formspubs/lists/0,,id=97817,00.html and thensearching for the form by number.

What do I do if the name on my or my spouse's social security card is wrong? If either you or your spouse recently changed your legal name because of marriage, divorce or any other legal reason, you must notify the Social Security Administration of the name change as soon as possible so that a new card may be issued. Otherwise, you will not be able to electronically file your taxes and the error may prevent your wages from being posted correctly to your social security record. Information and instructions may be found at the following web address: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10002.html#identity

What is my Taxpayer Identification Number? Before you can file federal taxes, be claimed as a dependent, or be claimed for exemption purposes, you must have an IRS Taxpayer Identification Number. This can be either a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. If you had a child this year, you should apply for your child's SSN or ITIN now. Many hospitals automatically provide SSN applications upon the child's birth, but in the event they didn't you'll want to get things rolling as soon as possible.

How do I know if I need a SSN or ITIN? Generally, the following categories of people will need a SSN if they don't already have one:

- U.S. citizens

- Newborn children born to U.S. citizens,

- U.S. resident aliens with permission from the Department of Homeland Security to work in the U.S.

- Aliens with U.S. Green Cards.

People who fall into one of these categories and do not have a SSN must contact the Social Security Administration to apply for a SSN. If you don't fall into one of the above categories or you're a nonresident alien who's not eligible for a SSN and you want to be claimed as a dependent or for an exemption, you'll need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Keep in mind you can't simply apply for an ITIN if you already have a pending SSN application or are eligible for a SSN. ITINs are only for those people who are not eligible for a SSN.

How do I apply for a SSN or ITIN? If you don't have a SSN, the first step is to contact the Social Security Administration at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10002.html, where there is an easy step-by-step section covering how to apply for a SSN, as well as a downloadable version of the form SS-5, application for social security card. If you need an ITIN, you'll want to contact the Internal Revenue Service at http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96287,00.html. You'll find tons of information related to the ITIN and an electronic copy of the form W-7, Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number at this web address. It may take five to six weeks to process your application for an ITIN, and probably several more weeks to process an application for a SSN so you'll want to get them in early.

It's critical all servicemembers and their dependents have their SSN or ITIN ready so their tax filing will run smoothly. Also, remember when filing taxes, everyone must correctly write or type his or her SSN or ITIN on all tax forms. Any mistakes will cause unnecessary processing delays when you try to file your taxes.

For more information, call Tech. Sgt. Jerry Boyce at the 51st Fighter Wing legal office at 784-4131