Tax season is upon us, and for many college students filing federal taxes for the first time can be stressful.
Justin Racette, a junior multimedia journalism major at Oklahoma State University, had filed for tax exemption until this year when he held two jobs and found himself being required to file taxes.
“When I realized I had to file taxes for the first time, I was concerned,” he said. “I have no prior experience and do not know where to start. I know that taxes are a big deal and I want to make sure I do everything correctly, but the pressure of having to be accountable for my own is very daunting.”
Steve Bullard, professor of tax accounting at Missouri State University, said many college students have an irrational fear of filing taxes.
“Most students are afraid of the government form,” he said. “They find it intimidating.”
However, Bullard said students shouldn’t be worried because they have the intelligence and the resources to be able to file their own taxes properly.
Below is a list of tips from Bullard and Lindsey Buchholz, tax research analyst for H&R Block, to help college students get started on their taxes well in advance of the April 15 deadline.
1. Talk to your parents.
Check with your parents to find out if they’re claiming you as a dependent on their tax return. This will determine how much money you have to have made in the last year before being required to file a tax return, Bullard said.
2. Find out if you need to file taxes at all.
If you’re a dependent on your parents’ tax return, your income has to be more than $3,700 for the year for you to be required to file a tax return. If you’re not a dependent, you have to make more than $9,500 to be required to file, Buchholz said.
3. Wait until the first week of February to get started.
“Law doesn’t require businesses to send out W-2 forms to employees until Jan. 31,” Bullard said. A W-2 is a form from your employer which lists the amount of money you made during the past year.
“Getting all of your information together and doing your taxes at one time — like a Saturday afternoon — is a good idea,” he said.
4. Collect the right information.
You’ll need your: Social Security Number, address, banking information, W-2’ 1099s — which report interests you’ve collected in the past year, 1098T — which is a tuition statement you should receive from your college and any receipts from medical expenses or charitable contributions from the past year.
If you go see a tax professional — such as those at H&R Block — you’ll need to bring all of this information with you, Buchholz said.
5. Use your free resources.
The Internal Revenue Service’s website has instructions that will walk you through how to fill out most tax forms and is entirely free, Bullard said. You can also use this website to download a copy of all your tax forms.
Also, the Turbo Tax for 1040-EZ and Simple Federal Tax Returns is available for free if you feel more comfortable using software to file taxes.
“The form 1040-EZ is for somebody who has a pretty simple tax return who’s not itemizing deductions and then not claiming any education credits,” Buchholz said. This would include most college students.
6. Get help from a professional.
“If you are uncomfortable and you just don’t know, it’s usually a good time to go see a tax professional in person,” Buchholz said. “They can help you go through those documents and help you figure out what you need to do.”
7. Don’t get overwhelmed.
“The biggest thing is to just not be freaked out about it because it’s something that you have to learn how to do and there are definitely people out there to help you,” Buchholz said.
Powered by Facebook Comments