Questions every college student should ask before filing taxes

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Tax time is here. As a college student (or the parent of one) the question, “Do college students need to file?” hangs in the air. Here are some common questions and answers that may help you with the tax filing process.

Are my parents claiming me as a dependent?

Living on campus and making your own decisions may feel like adulthood, but you could still be considered a dependent for tax purposes. According to IRS guidelines, if you’re a student, your parents can continue to claim you as a dependent until you turn 24. So, ask your parents about your dependency status before filing, as it may impact how, and if, you prepare your return.

Do I have to file?

Depending on how much money you made last year, you may or may not have to file taxes. If your parents will not claim you as a dependent and your gross income meets the IRS' minimum income guidelines for filing a tax return, you’ll need to file taxes. If someone will claim you as a dependent, yet you exceed the minimum income threshold, you will need to file taxes.

However, even if you’re not required, you may still want to file. If you worked at all during the year, your employer may have withheld taxes from your paycheck. Filing may be the only way to possibly get at least some money refunded to you.  If you are filing independently, you may be able to take advantage of refundable or special one-time only tax credits.

How do I file?

When it comes to filing, you can do it yourself or get professional help. If you had limited income and you want to do taxes yourself online, you could be eligible to use Free File, the IRS’ online basic tax filing software.

The IRS also allows you to file using its free mobile app, IRS2Go. You can download it from the App Store®, Google Play Store™ or via Amazon.com. Remember, if you’re not using Wi-Fi to connect your device to the internet, data charges may apply. Be sure to check with your carrier for additional details.

Where can I get help with filing?

If you don’t feel like you know the subject well enough, expert help is available. Start your search on campus. Sometimes students majoring in business help with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA offers free tax help to those who qualify, as well as persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance.

These IRS-certified volunteers provide basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. If you don’t have volunteers on campus, the IRS’ mobile app can help you find free VITA assistance near you.

As a Credit Union member, you can get low-cost tax preparation at a branch near you. LGFCU members who prefer to use an online solution to complete and file their returns can get a discount when using Turbotax®.

Use these tips to help you get a passing grade on the filing process during your college years and beyond.

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