How to Fill Out a W-4 Form When Your Spouse Is in the Military

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act may impact your W-4 form.

In the event that your spouse is currently in the military, there's a good chance that you've moved to different states on a regular basis. In most cases, you are required to file tax forms in the state that you lived in throughout most of the year, which can prove difficult if you move often. The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act of 2009 made an exception to the rule about how taxes are listed on the standard W-4 form. If you've received a state W-4 or similar tax form for withholding, there are certain guidelines to keep in mind when filling it out.

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Consider also​: Form W-4: What It Is, How to Fill It Out & Other W-4 Questions Answered

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Military Spouses Residency Relief Act

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act was first passed in 2009 as an amendment to the Service Members' Civil Relief Act. This law was passed to make it easier to file state taxes, claim residency and vote in elections.

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Because of this law, military spouses can maintain their legal residence in the state they lived in before permanently moving as a result of a station change that affected their active-duty spouse. Further protections were added with the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act that was passed in 2018. Because the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act directly affects state taxes, it's essential that you understand how these laws apply to you when filling out your state tax forms.

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Military Spouses Tax Exemption

While the federal W-4 that you must submit to your employer doesn't ask for information about your spouse when they serve in the military, a military tax exemption is still available in some states and can be input on certain state-specific W-4 forms. For instance, Kentucky uses Form K-4 for people who are looking to obtain the military spouse tax exemption. In this situation, your military spouse's income isn't taxable if:

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In Virginia, the document that you will need to fill out for this exemption is Form 763-S. The second page of this form is focused entirely on the military spouse qualification. On the other hand, residents of Colorado must complete Form DR-1059 to obtain this exemption.

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Check with your state's department of revenue to determine if this exemption is available in your state. If you want to reduce the taxable income on your federal W-4, you should fill out the deductions worksheet and apply the results to your W-4. In the event that you itemize deductions, it's possible to claim deductions on home mortgage interest, local and state taxes, and charitable contributions.

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Additional Tips to Remember

Before you finalize your W-4 form, keep in mind that many states don't include check boxes pertaining to the Military Spouses Relief Act of 2009. In this case, you may receive an additional form that's focused entirely on this program. On the other hand, some of the states that don't include this information still require you to place the necessary information toward the top of your W-4. If you're unsure of which scenario applies to you, your employer should be able to provide you with the relevant info.

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While filing taxes when your spouse is in the military can become complicated, the Military Spouses Relief Act has simplified this process. This information should give you all of the tools and tips you need to fill out your tax forms without making any mistakes.

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