If you strike up a conversation with just about any adult in this country, you will probably not find anyone who would disagree with you for saying that taxes are the worst part about being a grown-up.  It is no surprise that nobody likes taxes.  Every time you tear open a paycheck, a teeny part of your soul likely weeps when you see how much the government took back.  All of your heard-earned money disappearing like it’s nobody’s business. Fortunately, there is one good thing about taxes: the tax return check.  If you act like a good little American and file your taxes on time, you could have a nice little check coming your way in the weeks that follow.

That can be easier said than done.  If you know absolutely nothing about taxes, the task of actually filing your taxes can be daunting.  If it is an option for you, my number one suggestion is to try pass this off on your parents, seriously, if they have someone that does their taxes, you should ask if they could file yours as well.  If you want to get as much money back as you can and not mess anything up, this is an ideal route.  However, if this isn’t an option for you, you aren’t totally screwed.  Here are some tips for filing your taxes and making sure you don’t get in to any trouble with the IRS before you even graduate from college:

1. Check out the resources your school has to offer

Even though you probably know next to nothing about taxes, odds are there are people on your campus that do. Many accounting departments at universities actually offer free tax help for students during tax season.  The accounting students get to practice filing taxes, and you get the free assistance of someone who knows what they’re talking about.  It’s a win-win.  Keep your eyes open for ads about this around campus, and if you don’t, contact someone in the accounting or business department.

2. Know what tax breaks may be available

If either you or your parents are paying for your tuition, you may be eligible for certain tax breaks. College students can only claim one of these tax credits each year, but your parents may be eligible for some as well.  Check this out for so information about the different types of tax breaks.

3. Be mindful of the deadline

The deadline for filing your federal taxes is April 15.  If you didn’t already know that, you will have it memorized soon enough. If you barely made any money — for example, just a few thousand dollars — you aren’t required to file, but you should anyway.  If you don’t file, you can’t get that sweet, sweet tax return check.

4. Gather the right materials

In order to file your taxes correctly, you are going to want to have all materials, like your W2s handy. When those little guys come in the mail, don’t just toss them into the pile of papers on your desk, keep them in a safe spot.  You can download the forms you need to fill out from the internet at anytime, so if you think you are gonna have some trouble, you can start familiarizing yourself with the forms early.

5. Avoid Common Mistakes

Apart from not knowing about certain tax breaks, there are a few other mistakes that students commonly make.  One is that if you live in one state and go to school in another, you have to file with and be aware of the tax policies in both states.  You file primarily through your home state, but certain things may be different depending one the rules of the state.  Also, many students mess up on marking their dependency status. If you aren’t earning a lot of money, it makes sense for your parents to claim you as a dependent, so you don’t want to mark anything that says otherwise.

If you want more information about taxes, the best resource to start out is of course, the IRS.  They have a page specifically for students, and some helpful FAQs.

Where do you go for tax help?


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