SAU Buzz

To file, or not to file?

by Ashlynn Maczko
Posted on Feb 02, 2018

DAVENPORT, Iowa—School is back in session at colleges across the country and students are busy planning out how to meet assignment deadlines among their other commitments and responsibilities. While students are focused on finding balance between school, work and a social life, there is one deadline that might sneak up and pass them by—April 17—Tax Day.

The official filing season began on Jan. 29, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS estimates that nearly 155 million individual tax returns will be filed in 2018.

If you file as a dependent, meaning that someone else claims you as an exemption on their tax returns, you are only required to complete your own tax return if you make over $6,350 in a year, according to TurboTax.

Similarly, if you file as an independent, meaning that you provide more than 50 percent of your own financial support, the magic number is $10,350 a year, TurboTax reports.

“I file my taxes because I’d rather learn how to do it now, then stress over it when I have a full-time job,” Libby Miller said. “Plus, it’s nice to have a little extra money coming my way in tax refunds.”

Many students question whether they can still file for tax returns even if they make less than the $6,350 a year. The listed amounts indicate that you are legally required to file. The general rule of thumb is if you have federal taxes withheld on your paycheck, then you could qualify for a tax refund, according to Fox Business.  

For students filing as a dependent, the IRS stresses that you must indicate on your own tax forms that someone else is filing you as their dependent.

Consequently, if you file as a dependent you cannot claim educational tax credits such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

The AOTC allows students filing as independent, or the person claiming a dependent student, to receive tax credits for educational expenses, according to The IRS. This credit is only applicable for the first four years of the student’s undergraduate education.

The LLC is worth up to $2,500 per tax return, and has no limit on the number of years that you can claim the credit, according to the IRS. The LLC is a credit for tuition and other school related expenses. It is important to note that you cannot file for both the AOTC and the LLC in the same tax year.

Digesting all of this information can seem intimidating for first time filers, but there are many IRS recommended services that can help students file for free.

“1040EZ is the simplest form to fill out and is probably the best for most students,” said Daniel Dominic, Capital Coordinator at Caterpillar with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. Dominic holds a Master of Business Administration from St. Ambrose University, and is working toward receiving a Certified Management Accountant credential.

Free File is available to individuals with an income less than $66,000 a year.

The IRS’ Free File program partners with Free File Alliance, a nonprofit coalition of industry-leading tax software companies. H&R Block, TaxAct and TurboTax are among the tax companies that participate in this partnership with the IRS.

If you are wary about filing taxes on your own, there are some free assistance programs in the Quad Cities as well.  

The United Way of the Quad Cities Area supports the IRS Volunteer Tax Assistance Program (VITA), which provides free tax preparation to households with an income less than $57,000 a year, according to United Way.  Certified community volunteers work with individuals to help file tax returns and answer other tax related questions.

At the end of the day, it is important to discuss filing options with your parents before filling out any tax forms. The IRS provides many resources to help individuals determine their filing status and other exemptions that may be applicable. April 17 is fast approaching, and is one deadline that you don’t want to miss.