When my grandfather was 18 he joined the U.S. Navy. It was a simple choice for him. He grew up in the Great Depression where food was hard to come by. Three square meals and a chance to fight in World War II. He served on the U.S.S. Indianapolis; and yes, he survived or I wouldn’t be here to write this post. I heard alot of World War II stories from my grandfather when I was growing up. When it was my turn to serve, I followed in his footsteps and joined the U.S. Navy. One of the things they teach you when you get to basic is that the service is a family and that the military takes care of you. Getting a roof over your head with a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, and something to eat for free are part of what it means to serve.
These days, U.S. Navy service members still get those same three basic items in their pay package. But, instead of going to the chow hall like I used to do, most service members just get BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence for the civilians). You also receive BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and a Clothing Allowance. BAS, BAH, and your CCRA (for Enlisted members) are all tax free. When you look at your LES, you’ll note that they don’t take the FICA tax out of your BAH and BAS. It’s nontaxable and when you are serving in the military, every dollar counts.
You might think that since your BAH and BAS are not taxable, you don’t have to report it to the Court in your divorce case. This would be a mistake. While Uncle Sam understands that you shouldn’t get taxed, our State Government in Olympia hasn’t found a source of revenue that they don’t want to force you to share…either with them or at least someone else. You must report your income for purposes of child support, but, strangely, they don’t require its consideration for purposes of spousal support. In our next post, we’ll walk through how BAH and Child Support work in Washington State.