By Adi Miller
Tax season is a little different this year. The filing date was delayed from April 15 to July 15, reflecting the business and personal upheaval associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
For college students, tax filing can be nerve wracking even under normal conditions.
University of Georgia education major Julia Sharpe said she has never filed taxes independently because she is intimidated by the whole process.
“The process is pretty daunting,” said Sharpe. “Even if I were to file them myself, I wouldn’t know where to start.”
Joan Koonce, a professor and financial management specialist at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, said that with the right resources, tax filing can be painless.
There are numerous Volunteer Tax Assistance sites for those who need help, and they can complete students’ taxes for free, Koonce said. “I recommend them. Students can find where these sites are by going to the IRS’ website,” she said.
Even though tax season is an unavoidable recurrence, Sharpe said she is fine diverting her responsibility for another year. For Sharpe, and students like her, she will rely on her family to guide her.
“Part of the reason I haven’t done them is because of how much I have going on,” said Sharpe. “I know I can lean back on my parents for help.”
For students filing for the first time who are feeling overwhelmed, Koonce offered advice to help aid the process.
“Keep track of all the documents received throughout the year and make sure all the information is provided to their tax preparer,” Koonce said. Storing all the documents in a safe, memorable spot is helpful, she said.
Most documents required for tax filing are provided through the mail or online from various sources throughout the year. Many student workers will receive W-2s from their employers, or a form 1099 if they are a freelance contractor.
However, before students file their taxes, Koonce said it is vital to know how their parents are claiming them. Filing as a dependent means the student needs to check to ensure that they are not providing duplicate filing.
“Typically, parents have higher incomes than their children,” Koonce said. “If this is true, it is more beneficial for parents to claim their children as dependents.”
To ensure there is no money left unclaimed, Koonce said it is important that students understand where they stand with their scholarships, student loans, and other educational expenses.
Colleges send out form 1098-Ts to students with a full report of the tuition paid, scholarships granted, and other expenses throughout the school year. For students who have paid off any amount over $600 on their student loans, a 1098-E form is necessary.
For students unsure as to whether they are required to file taxes, Koonce said “that depends on many factors, including their amount of income.” The best source for information regarding tax filing, Koonce said, is the IRS’s website: https://www.irs.gov/
The IRS has a short questionnaire on its website to help people decide if tax filing is necessary.
“The IRS will contact you by letter if there is an error,” Koonce said. “The IRS can only determine accuracy based on the information that they have, so sometimes the taxpayer is right, but did not give enough information to the IRS, and sometimes the taxpayer is wrong and will need to pay the difference to the IRS.”
Adi Miller is a journalism student at the University of Georgia. The reporting for this article was completed before the campus closed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article was updated to reflect the delayed tax filing deadline.