College Connect Spring 2019: How Students Can Overcome the Intimidation of Tax Filing

By Grace Langella

Taxes can be intimidating, especially for students.

Nique Roth, a University of Georgia marketing major, said taxes make her nervous because she knows so little.

“If there was an outlet to learn about them, I wouldn’t be scared,” said Roth, “but because it’s kind of a free for all, I’m definitely intimidated by the idea of filing them myself.”

According to Lance Palmer, a professor of Family Planning and Consumer Economics, many students have a skewed view of taxes because of the media.

“Tax policy is much, much, much more complex than you could ever learn about through a radio show or an interview with a politician,” said Palmer. “But sometimes we hear about these opinions and just agree with them.”

For some students, such as Roth, taxes are a foreign concept. Despite knowing that she will have to deal with taxes for the rest of her life, Roth was comfortable deferring that responsibility. She had her step-father file her taxes because of her unfamiliarity with the process.

“My parents didn’t really give me a choice on filing my taxes because they knew I didn’t know how to do it,” said Roth.

To those students who feel uninformed, but want to learn more, Palmer gave several pieces of advice about the tax filing process.

Palmer’s first piece of advice is to coordinate with your parents and learn from them.

“Know what your parents are doing,” said Palmer. “Are they claiming you or are you on your own?” Filing as a dependent won’t give you access to some tax credits, but these credits can transfer over to your family’s tax refund instead, he said.

Palmer said it’s important to know where you stand as a student with scholarships, loans and other education expenses.

“If you use a loan to pay for tuition fees, or you’ve just paid out of pocket, you’re probably eligible for a tax credit on your tax return,” said Palmer, who added that it’s vital to make sure that all excess scholarship money is used specifically on school expenses throughout the year to avoid paying taxes on the leftover money.

Students should also understand their employment paperwork and how they are being classified for tax purposes.

Many students receive W-2s as employees, while others get a 1099 form as independent contractors, said Palmer. Students who get 1099s should be tracking their mileage and other expenses associated with their job so they can claim those deductions at tax time to offset their income, Palmer explained.

It’s essential for students to stay informed on current tax laws and how they can affect them, he said.

“Students should definitely be paying attention to these laws,” said Palmer. “Otherwise, there’s a big chance that they could leave money on the table.”

Grace Langella is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.

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