Tax Filing Tips for College Students

by Dotty Ilean

Although many college students do not make much money, it is important for students to file taxes correctly because tax return information can affect their financial aid status. College students should fill out their taxes as soon as possible and retain copies of all documents. Many colleges and universities require copies of tax returns for verification during the financial aid process and when awarding student scholarships.

Taxable Income

Determine all possible sources of taxable income before you start filing your tax returns. This includes common sources, such as income earned through an independent job, but students should also include income earned in the federal work study program and some scholarships. Check with the scholarship provider and your school's financial aid office to determine what amount of your scholarship, if any, is taxable.

Review Education Credit Opportunity

Visit the Internal Revenue Service's online Student Site, an official guide to understanding taxes for students. Review the Student Site's tutorial for information on education credits, such as the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. This tutorial also discusses important tax forms for students, such as Form 1098-T, a tuition statement. Note the qualifications necessary to receive education credits, as well as income requirements and restrictions. Compare these requirements to your own information.

Check for Assistance Programs

Many colleges offer seminars or programs on student tax preparation. Ask your financial aid office to determine if your school can assist you with tax filing. This is useful even if you have already started filing your tax form, because the school program may alert you to additional opportunities. This step is particularly useful if you are an international student who must file a tax return as many schools provide tax support specifically for international students.

Take Your Time

Prepare your taxes on paper, even if you plan to file electronically. Review each line carefully and read all instructions. Proofread for any mistakes. Consult parents or a professional tax consultant to check your work if it is your first filing. Set your tax return aside after you are finished and come back to it a couple of days later and proofread it one more time.

About the Author

Dotty Ilean has been a writer since 2006, with work appearing on various websites. She holds a B.A. in political science from UC Davis and is pursuing an M.A. in international affairs.

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