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Remembering veterans’ contributions and offering tax help for still-serving military men and women

We call it Veterans Day here in the United States.

An Army veteran salutes the colors being carried in the Veterans Day parade in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 11, 2011. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army via Flickr)

That Nov. 11 is such an important date is evidenced by the fact that federal holiday has escaped conversion into a Monday that wraps up a long weekend that’s usually more focused on consumer spending than actual commemoration.
End of the Great War: Each November we mark what originally was the official, formal end of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
The day, which is celebrated as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other countries that recognize the anniversary, has evolved into a day that honors military veterans.
My dad and other relatives served in the U.S. armed forces over the years. I am thankful that my father’s active duty in the Navy did not coincide with any wars or other military entanglements, although much to my mother’s dismay he was in the Naval Reserves during Korea and she lived in constant worry, so I am told, that he would be called up. He wasn’t.
Still, I think of my father and other family members who served on this day. And I think of those families whose loved ones did not fare as well as mine.
Gratitude and peace be with you and all military service personnel, still serving or retired, and their families today.
Tax tips for the military: While there is much debate, political and otherwise, about how to better serve the needs and interests of our service men and women, the Internal Revenue Code does at least contain some tax help.
Here are some tax breaks, representing this week’s Weekly Tax Tip, that members of the military and their families should look into at filing time to ensure that they get every available tax benefit.

Combat pay is partially or fully tax-free. Service members serving in support of a combat zone may also qualify for this exclusion.
Reservists whose reserve-related duties take them more than 100 miles from home can deduct their unreimbursed travel expenses, even if they don’t itemize their deductions. This so-called above-the-line deduction is found only on the long Form 1040, so if you usually file a 1040A but can claim this, change forms.
The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, may be worth up to $6,269 on 2016 taxes for low-and moderate-income service members. Inflation adjustments bump the 2017 EITC max up to $6,318. Military personnel also are allowed to include technically nontaxable combat pay in their taxable income if it will boost their EITC benefit.
An IRA or 401(k)-type plan might mean saving for retirement and cutting taxes, too. Service members who contribute to these accounts, such as the Thrift Savings Plan, also may be able to claim the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, which can be worth as much as $1,000 directly against any tax you owe.
U.S. service members stationed abroad get an automatic extension until June 15 to file a federal income tax return. Also, those serving in a combat zone typically have until 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file and to pay any tax due.
Most military bases offer free tax preparation and filing assistance during the tax filing season. Some also offer free tax help after the April deadline. Service members who prepare their own return qualify to e-file their federal return for free using Internal Revenue Service’s Free File online option.
Both spouses normally must sign a joint income tax return, but if one spouse is absent due to certain military duty or conditions, the other spouse may be able to sign for him or her. A power of attorney is required in other instances. A military installation’s legal office may be able to help.
Those leaving the military and looking for work may be able to deduct some job search expenses, such as the costs of travel, preparing a resume and job placement agency fees. Moving expenses (another above-the-line deduction) also may qualify for a tax deduction.
Be sure to let your new employer know of your military service. In addition to being a resume selling point, it also could provide your new boss a tax break via the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

You can find more about military tax matters in IRS Publication IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide, as well as at the IRS’ special Tax Information for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces web page.
You also might find these items of interest:

Don’t overlook state tax breaks for military personnel 
NFL to repay sporting event ‘paid patriotism’ tax money
Remembering fallen military members and helping their families

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Remembering veterans’ contributions and offering tax help for still-serving military men and women

Marijuana and other taxes tended to win on Nov. 8

Voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine approved recreational marijuana use, and taxing those personal pot amounts, on Nov. 8.

The votes are in, for the most part, not only for the U.S. president, but also for myriad ballot initiatives.

Only Arizona voters on Tuesday rejected personal marijuana legalization. The lone consolation for many disappointed Grand Canyon State supporters is that travel is easy to the neighboring, and pot-approving, states of Nevada, California and Colorado.
While the weed votes – medical marijuana also was on ballots, and approved, in North Dakota, Arkansas, Florida and Montana – got most mass media attention, there were plenty of other tax-related ballot measures  decided by state and local voters.
Here’s a snapshot of more of Tuesday’s ballot measure results.
Added taxes for the rich: Coastal efforts to raise taxes on the rich appear to have earned voter support.
It’s close in Maine, but a proposal to add a 3 percent surcharge on wealthier residents has an 375,169 to 368,952 voting edge. If the results are certified, Maine’s top tax rate would go from 7.15 percent to 10.15 percent on incomes of more than $200,000. That would give the Down East State the second highest top marginal rate in the United States, following only California.
The Golden State definitely will keep that top individual tax rate title thanks to voter approval to extend for 12 more years the state’s top marginal rate of 13.3 percent on wealthy Californians.
Smoking taxes mostly failed: Tobacco tax hikes were on four state ballots. They failed in three.
Californians were the only voters to approve higher taxes on smoking on Nov. 8. Proposition 56, which won by a decisive 63 percent to 37 percent margin, will raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.87 to $2.87.
Voters in Colorado rejected Amendment 72, which would have raised the state’s tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.84 to $2.59.
Missouri voters defeated two cigarette tax proposals. Proposition A would have raised the per pack tax on cigarettes from $0.17 to $0.40 by 2021, as well as added a 5 percent sales tax to other tobacco products. Amendment 3 proposed raising the tax $0.60.
North Dakota’s Statutory Measure 4 called for hiking the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.44 to $2.20. It also would have raised the wholesale purchase tax on all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 28 percent to 56 percent.
But smoking tax advocates in this year’s losing states shouldn’t give up. An effort four years ago to increase cigarette taxes in California failed, but laid the groundwork for this year’s winning initiative.
Soda taxes approved: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wasn’t able to celebrate a victory by his preferred presidential candidate, but he did get some good news on Nov. 8. So-called soda taxes that he supported were approved on Election Day in four western U.S. cities.
The sugar-sweetened beverages sin taxes were approved by voters in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, California and in Boulder, Colorado. (For New Yorkers and Georgians, the Golden State counterpart to your Albany is in the San Fran/Oakland area.)
The California communities will see a penny per ounce tax, the same amount that was approved in neighboring Berkeley back in 2014. The Boulder vote was for a 2-cent-per-ounce tax.
Yes and no to Missouri sales taxes: In addition to the tobacco tax hikes, Show Me State voters also were asked to decide on some statewide sales taxes.
The most notable was Constitutional Amendment 4 to prohibit the expansion of the state’s sales tax to services.
Expanding the sales tax base has become a common tactic by states nationwide trying to cope with shrinking revenue and an economy that’s moved from sales of goods to sales of services. But Missouri voters told their lawmakers they’ll have to find other options, approving the ban 57 percent to 43 percent.
Missouri voters, however, were much more amenable to a renewing a state sales tax that has been on the state’s books since it was approved by voters in 1984 and pays for the state park system and soil and water conservation programs. Constitutional Amendment 1 passed by an 80 percent to 20 percent margin.
No to NW taxes: The effort by some Washington state climate change activists to enact the nation’s first statewide carbon tax on fossil fuels failed. Initiative 732 won only King County, home to Seattle.
Part of the problem was that environmental and politically progressive groups never reached a consensus on the measure. Plus the oil industry poured lots of money into the fight against the ballot measure. 
In neighboring Oregon, voters rejected a $3 billion corporate tax initiative. Measure 97 proposed charging certain C corporations a 2.5 percent tax on their gross annual sales that exceed $25 million.
You can find more on all this year’s ballot measure results, tax and otherwise, at Ballotpedia.
You also might find these items of interest:

A look back at California’s landmark Prop 13
Oregon collects almost $26 million in marijuana taxes
Texas town’s ballot measure seeks to remove queries about candidates’ delinquent taxes

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Marijuana and other taxes tended to win on Nov. 8