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Mandatory health coverage form required for new tax season

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Beginning this year for the first time, all active duty, Guard, Reserve, retiree and civilian Airmen will need proof of health care coverage when filing their federal tax returns.

With tax season rapidly approaching, this new information is essential for all military members - past and present.

"The Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010, requires U.S. citizens and legal residents to obtain and maintain a minimum standard of health care insurance, called minimum essential coverage," said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Bundles, 30th Space Wing Judge Advocate civil law NCOIC. "This means that 2015 taxpayers are required to prove they have obtained the minimum essential healthcare coverage. The good news is that TRICARE qualifies for this minimum essential coverage. Proof of this coverage is provided by the Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service Form 1095C: Employer Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage, and is scheduled to be mailed out by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in January 2016. All Air Force employees, active duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, retirees, and civilians will receive the IRS Form 1095C to prove their minimum essential coverage. The form will also be available electronically through MyPay under the Taxes section. In order to save taxpayers' dollars to cover printing costs, Air Force members are highly encouraged to access MyPay and opt to receive forms exclusively via electronic means."

Additionally, there are several alternative options for those needing support during tax season.

"There are multiple resources available to military members and their families to file their taxes for free," said Bundles. "The IRS allows anyone with an income below $62,000 to file electronically for free without requiring any type of training. Members with an income of more than $62,000 can also file for free. However, this action requires more knowledge on how to file taxes. The IRS website provides a user guide and other resources to walk the taxpayer through the process. Another great resource available is Military One Source, which also offers free tax filing for military members and their families."

One option not available this year is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, but in its place is another seminar.

"The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program will not be run on base this year," said Bundles. "However, starting on Jan. 19, the legal office will conduct briefings to teach qualified Team V members how to file a Form 1040EZ. We will visit units that request this briefing on an as-needed basis. Members who are interested in this briefing should contact their First Sergeants to let them know. First Sergeants will then contact the legal office to set up the date and time for the briefing."

In addition to the legal briefings, those still looking for aid through the VITA program can access it off-base.

"Because the VITA Program is not being operated on Vandenberg this year, we highly encourage Team V members to use Military One Source," said Capt. Ryan Linsner, 30th SW/JA chief of civil law. "In addition, there are VITA centers located in Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo for those looking elsewhere."

The 1095 will be available for all personnel by the end of January, at which point Team V members are encouraged to begin completing their returns.

"Tax season begins on Jan. 19, and the deadline to submit 2015 tax returns is April 18, rather than the traditional April 15 date," said Linsner. "So don't wait until the last minute. If you do not file your tax returns, you are subject to both civil and criminal penalties."