Students’ guide for surviving tax season

Spinnaker

Moving out of your parents’ home, enrolling at a university and perhaps even finding a new job have extensive legal and societal implications, among which paying taxes is one of the least popular.

Master Tax Adviser at H&R Block Kathy Coleman said one of the most frequent issues with college students is a miscommunication between them and their parents.

“They used to be claimed on their parents’ taxes, but once they are self supporting, they need to file their own taxes,” Coleman said.

The best place to start learning about how to take care of your own taxes is to do some reading at the Internal Revenue Service Web site, which includes a step-by-step procedure on how to fill out all the forms you need, she said.

“It’s not that difficult,” Coleman said. “And they did a pretty good job with the tutorials.”

According to the IRS site, every U.S. citizen or resident must file a U.S. income tax return if they reach a certain level of income. Factors that influence your obligation to file a tax return are the amount of your income, whether you are able to be claimed as a dependent, your filing status and your age.

The most challenging thing is to find the time to keep up with the constantly changing laws and procedures. Once the students learn about the process, they might actually save a significant amount of money just by knowing what is out there for them, Coleman said.

Based on the information from the IRS site, students can offset the cost of higher education by taking advantage of educational credits that can be subtracted from their federal income tax.

The Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit can go as high as $2,000 per tax return.

There are “quite a few [tax breaks for students],” Coleman said.

What is important is that students keep track of their expenses by keeping receipts that prove they spent the money on educational purposes such as books, supplies, equipment, tuition and fees. These will be needed in case they get audited by the IRS, Coleman said.

“It is crucial to file taxes on time in order to avoid additional penalties,” Coleman said. “Interest on any unpaid tax is compounded daily until the date of payment.”

Senior Biology major Myle Dae is one of the students who would be lost if she needed to file her own tax returns.

“I would have to go to one of those places where they do it for you,” she said.

People who feel completely lost when it comes to filling out tax forms can even attend classes that are usually scheduled once the tax season is finished.

They can either learn how to file all necessary forms for personal purposes or gather minimal knowledge required to find a company with one of the tax preparation services, Coleman said.

E-mail Andrea Farah at [email protected]

Upcoming Event

WHAT:
“The 10 Most Missed Deductions,” a seminar that will focus on
deductions and credits that might be overlooked

WHO:
Sponsored by H&R Block

WHEN:
12-1 p.m., Feb. 26

WHERE:
Building 51, room 3201

HOW MUCH:
Free for students who log on to unf.edu/dept/cpdt and register

WHAT TO BRING:
A sack lunch and questions about income tax forms