Learn How to File Taxes as a Working College Student

For many students, finding part-time work while in college is a must. Whether they’re enrolled in a work-study program or working off campus, that income means they’ll need to file taxes when the time comes.

At Addition Financial, we work closely with students and their families to ensure they’re meeting their financial obligations. It’s common for students to ask us how to file taxes – and we’re happy to help. Here’s what you need to know.

Do You Need to File a Tax Return?

If you look at the Internal Revenue Service requirements, you’ll see a provision that says students who earn less than a certain amount and are claimed as a dependent on a parent’s tax return do not need to file a return of their own. For the 2019 tax year, that amount is $11,650 in earned income and $1,050 in unearned income.

However, the answer to whether you need to file is not as simple as that. If you have a job that required you to complete a W-2 form and taxes are withheld from your paycheck, you should file a return even if you earned less than the minimum amount required by the IRS.

If you don’t file a return, any money that was withheld from your paycheck is essentially a donation to the IRS. That money rightfully belongs to you. So, you should plan on filing if any income at all has been withheld to ensure that you get the money that’s owed to you.

What You Need to Know Before You File

Let’s review the things you need to know before you file your taxes. They are:

  1. Your dependent status. If your parents are claiming you as a dependent on their tax return, that limits what you can do on your own return. For example, you may not claim any exemptions or credits if you are still a dependent.
  2. Your tax-deductible expenses. You may be able to deduct certain expenses that you pay out of pocket on your tax return. For example, your school books and supplies may be deductible in some situations. If your parents are not claiming you as a dependent, you may be eligible for a student tax credit in addition to the standard deductions.
  3. Your income. Your employer is legally required to mail or give you a W-2 form if they withhold taxes from your paycheck. If you do contract work and completed a W-9 form for your employer, it’s their responsibility to provide you with a 1099 form showing your income for the year. In either case, you’ll need to report that income to the IRS on your return.

You should keep any receipts and documentation that may be necessary for you to complete your taxes. If you’re not sure what to keep, you can refer to the IRS page for student taxes for more information.

Financial Planning 101: Crash Course for College Students

Tips for Filing Your Taxes

As a student, your tax return should be relatively easy to file. Here are some tips to help you.

  1. Start early. As soon as the year is over, check to make sure you have all receipts and any other paperwork you need to file. You should have your W-2 or 1099 by the end of January.
  2. Check to see if your college has a tax assistance program. Many schools offer on-campus help for students as they file their taxes. You’ll be able to get the forms you need and ask questions before you begin the process of filing.
  3. Talk to your parents. If you’re filing as a dependent, then you should check with them to make sure you know everything you need to know. Your parents may also be able to help you with some of the ins and outs of filing.
  4. File online if you can. There’s no need to pay a professional to help you with a simple student tax return. Online programs can help you complete your return quickly and accurately. The IRS Free File program is available to college students.
  5. Double check to make sure you’re taking any eligible credits and deductions, especially if you are not a dependent. If you are paying for your education on your own, you may be able to qualify for the Earned Income Credit in addition to education tax credits and the like.
  6. Make sure to sign and date your return. (A surprisingly common mistake!)
  7. For the quickest possible turnaround of your return, file online and fill out the information to have your return deposited directly into your bank account.

Finally, you should be wary of any tax-related scams. Sometimes, thieves target college students on the assumption that they are more gullible than adults who have been filing tax returns for years. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts.

While the thought of filing an income tax return for the first time may be a bit intimidating, remember that there is help available.

To learn more about Addition Financial’s Aspire Checking Account and how it can help you make the most of your money, please click here.

The content provided here is not legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. Please consult with legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific needs or questions you may have. We do not make any guarantees as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not support any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability or legal obligations for your use of this information.