Bethlehem Press

Saturday, May 27, 2017

State offers military family tax help

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 by contributed article in Local News

Individuals filing their 2016 Pennsylvania personal income taxes can help Pennsylvania’s military personnel and their families by donating part or all of their refund to the state’s Military Family Relief Assistance Program.

The program provides grants of up to $3,500 to Pennsylvania members of the armed forces and their families who have a direct and immediate financial need as a result of circumstances beyond their control. The tax form includes instructions on how to donate.

“Pennsylvania citizens are always so supportive of the men and women in uniform, and this is continuously demonstrated every year by the donations they make to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program while completing their taxes,” said Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general. “It may be a simple check off on a tax form, but that seemingly small gesture goes a long way toward helping a military family persevere during trying times.”

Examples of how the grants helped service members in 2016 include:

• A medically-retired service member from Dauphin County lost his home and all of the family’s possessions in a fire. The family was staying in a hotel until other housing arrangements could be made. The applicant received a $3,500 grant.

• A service member from Clinton County was struggling with PTSD from events that occurred overseas, and was receiving treatment for this disorder. Unable to find suitable employment to provide for three young children as a single parent, the applicant had fallen behind on rental payments and bills. The service member received a $3,500 grant.

• A medically discharged service member from Allegheny County had been unexpectedly laid off from his job and fell behind on all of the household bills. With a spouse and children to provide for, the applicant requested assistance until new employment could be found. The applicant received a grant for $3,500.

• A service member from Lancaster County was a single parent of three children and unable to afford a new furnace for their home; all of the estimates to replace it exceeded $6,000. The existing furnace was beyond repair, and with winter approaching, there was no choice but to have the new one installed. The service member received a grant for $3,500.

Since the program began in 2006, more than $1.71 million has been donated by individuals filing their Pennsylvania personal income tax returns and through private donations.

“It is important for service members and their families to understand that they are not alone when it comes to a hardship,” said General Carrelli. “Help is available. If facing a financial challenge due to unforeseen circumstances, don’t hesitate to apply for assistance through this program.”

Members of the armed forces who are residents of Pennsylvania are eligible to apply for assistance while they are serving on active duty for 30 or more consecutive days with the Army, Army Reserve, Navy, Navy Reserve, Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard, Coast Guard Reserve, or the Pennsylvania Army or Air National Guard.

All members of the armed forces who were discharged for medical reasons are also eligible to apply for assistance for up to four years after a medical discharge.

In addition, reserve component service members (including Pennsylvania National Guard members) and their families may be eligible for a grant for a period of up to three years after release from a qualifying active duty tour.

The program also applies to certain family members of eligible service members who are Pennsylvania residents. Applicants must show that they have a direct and immediate financial need as a result of circumstances beyond their control.

In addition to the check-off box on the Personal Income Tax form, contributions can be made directly by sending a check to the Military Family Relief Assistance Program, c/o Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Bldg. 0-47 Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, PA 17003.

Donations are tax deductible to the extent authorized by federal law.

To learn more about this program, visit www.mfrap.pa.gov.