Taxes. That one word has the power to evoke different feelings in different people—excitement, dread or maybe heartburn.
Many Americans scramble to file their taxes on time, praying they don’t make any catastrophic mistakes in the process.
But what about students? With Tuesday, April 18—the tax deadline—fast approaching, how can students be most successful with their taxes?
Dr. James Brammer, a faculty member in the BJU School of Business, encourages students to follow three steps to successfully file their taxes this year.
The first step is to simply not panic.
“Take a deep breath, sit back and relax and get to work,” Brammer said.
“There is plenty you can do to get your [taxes] done without a lot of pain and intimidation.”
Brammer said students are more likely to make mistakes when filing if they are stressed and intimidated in the process.
The second step is to avoid simple mistakes.
One mistake students may make is simply not filing their taxes.
If an individual makes less than $10,000, they are not required by law to file.
However, in most cases not filing is to that individual’s disadvantage.
If the government took money out of a paycheck, no matter how small the amount, in most circumstances the government is required to give a portion of that money back.
Therefore, not filing could result in losing money.
“So even if you’re not technically required to file, you still should walk yourself through the process to make sure that [the government and IRS] aren’t keeping money that rightfully belongs to you,” Brammer said.
Another mistake that can have a significantly negative effect on students’ taxes is filing as a dependent on two different returns.
“Only one set of taxpayers can claim the student as a dependent,” Brammer said.
“If the parents claim the student as a dependent and then a student claims [himself] as a dependent, that is going to trigger a problem.”
Brammer said the best way to avoid this scenario is for students to simply talk with parents and decide who is claiming the student as a dependent.
Whoever is making the higher income should claim the dependent. In most cases, it is the parents.
The third step is choosing the method by which to file.
Most students will file using the 1040 form, but the method of submitting the return can vary.
Students can go to any public library and pick up a 1040 form for free, or they can file online at the IRS website with no cost.
Another way to file is using a downloadable software that can be purchased at several different stores for around $20-$30.
More complicated software exceeds $30, but most students wouldn’t need the involved help.
Brammer said that the software, as well as certain websites, really helps people through the filing process.
“The online and downloadable software does a really good job of walking you through the steps,” Brammer said.
“If you are the average taxpayer, you don’t know what questions to ask; the software and some of the websites do.”
Brammer also reminds students who were recently married that they should file taxes for the entire year as married.
Most importantly, Brammer said he wants students to keep perspective when dealing with the IRS.
“So many people have this idea that the IRS is this big bad entity that’s about to pounce and attack,” he said.
“They are just like anybody else. They are people with jobs, and those jobs are filled with human beings. And human beings make mistakes.”