College Connect: College students and their taxes

Posted By David Wilhite

By Catherine Morrow

A University of Georgia professor said college students can learn important lessons about their financial situation from filing their own taxes.

Lance Palmer, a professor in the department of Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics, said learning those skills as students will make it much easier to understand in the future.

“I think it’s a great idea for students to file their own taxes as soon as they can because chances are, whatever state or financial affair they are in today, it’s only going to get more complicated,” said Palmer.

“But things don’t get super complicated all at once, so if they file their return now, and it’s relatively easy and straightforward, and they are understanding how taxes affect them, then by the time life gets very complicated from a tax perspective, they are still able to file their own returns,” according to Palmer.

Palmer, an expert in taxes, received his Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Utah and his Ph.D. in Family, Consumer and Human Development at Utah State University.

Some students worry they will miss something or fill out the wrong form when trying to file their own taxes.

Kelli McCravy, a senior at the University of Georgia, studying psychology and sociology, does not file by herself because she is afraid she will fill out the wrong thing.

“My biggest fear is not filing correctly and then having the IRS after me for tax fraud or something,” said McCravy. “My dad does my taxes every year. I guess a good idea would be to watch him do it first so that I know what to do when I get a job after college.”

But Palmer insisted that filing taxes should not be too difficult for students. He called sites like TurboTax and TaxSlayer “user-friendly for students.”

“It’s a really simple interface. The questions they ask are made to be very simple,” said Palmer.  “Sometimes they ask so many questions because they want to direct you to the correct form.”

Students should not be worried about filling out the wrong form because these online tax platforms are automated, according to Palmer.

“You never actually look at the tax return, you just answer some questions and it generates the correct tax forms and files it for you,” said Palmer.

When asked about filing fees, McCravy said she was unsure how much it cost to file her taxes because her father always does it.

The good news for students, according to Palmer, is that filing taxes for most students is free. In Georgia, students can file both state and federal taxes free of charge if they make less than $66,000 per year, according to Palmer.

“If students file their own taxes, they could save hundreds of dollars per year on filing fees,” said Palmer.

Palmer suggested that students go on to IRS.gov and search for “free file.” IRS.gov will direct students to multiple sites like TurboTax and TaxSlayer, where they can file for free.

Catherine Morrow is a student at the University of Georgia.

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