Filing Taxes as a College Student

This post is a part of our new College Series, supporting our members who are currently working hard at their education, or giving guidance to the students in their lives!

When you start college, you experience a lot of things for the very first time – being away from home, traveling alone, managing their own schedule – the list goes on. This April will bring another new milestone for a lot of college students, when it’s time to file taxes for the first time. If you’ve never had to submit your tax return before, you may be unsure what you need, where to submit, or if you need to file at all. We’ve compiled some advice for all those just starting their tax journey to help get everything in order before the April 17, 2018 deadline.

You may not have to file, but you should!

For a lot of college students, you may not be required to file because of how much you made during the year. If you’re filing as a dependent and made under $5,950, or filing as an independent and made under $9,750, you’re not legally obligated to file. However, if you made a paycheck and had income taxes withheld, you’re losing out on potential money coming back to you from the government.

Know what paperwork you’ll need.

In most cases, as a college student you’ll only need 2 forms to file your taxes: your W-2 from your employer, and a 1098-T, from your school. A W-2 indicates how much you made and all the taxes that were withheld for the year. The 1098-T is a tuition statement that outlines how much you were billed for tuition and fees. If you’re already paying interest on student loans, you may also have a 1098-E from your lender.

Find out if you’re a dependent.

Being a dependent means your parents can claim you on their tax returns because of certain qualifying conditions, like age or income. Because a dependent can’t claim any exemptions when their filling out their own taxes, it’s vital to know whether you’re eligible to file independent. In most circumstances, college students under the age of 24 are often considered dependent under their parents or guardians.

If you’re worried about filing your taxes, it’s a good idea to do some research on tax groups on your campus. Many schools offer support groups for students who need some advice or guidance when filing for the first time. And if you’re concerned about the cost of filing, don’t be – if you make under $54,000, you can file with the IRS’s Free File program at no cost.


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