Taxes are due April 18 this year because a Washington, D.C., holiday falls on the usual April 15 date and is followed by a Saturday.
Third-year law student Weston Cole has spent time learning about how to file income taxes as a member of USD’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. He spoke with reporter Josie Kerk about what students should know when it comes to taxes.
What are the basic documents students should have on hand when getting ready to file?
What they need to bring is usually, or if they’re doing it on their own with H & R Block or anything, is they need their W2s from any jobs they’ve had in the year.
Usually with students, they don’t have any interest income like from a savings account or something, but if they have interest income, they need to bring the form … that’s really all you need is to have your social security number and any income from jobs.
What expenses should students be keeping track of throughout the year so they’re ready to file?
Usually with students it’s fairly straightforward and keeping track of receipts isn’t really beneficial because that’s only for itemized reductions. Now, if you’re a student at the University of South Dakota, you can go on WebAdvisor and find the forms for all you spent on school last year.
What is the most common mistake students make or misunderstanding they have when preparing to file?
There’s two that I can think of right off the bat. Especially with undergraduate students, they need to find out for sure if their parents have or will claim them. If they mark it down that they aren’t dependent and they were claimed, the IRS will reject it or their parents won’t be able claim them, too.
The second mistake I see a lot is they ignore what they’ve spent on school and they don’t apply for any eligible education credits. The big one for undergraduates is the American Opportunity Credit. Even if you don’t owe any taxes, it will increase your refund.
Are there any unusual expenses that students don’t usually think about when figuring out deductions?
There’s not a lot that a student has to worry about. A standard deduction is what most students take and that covers a lot of their expenses. But if you’re traveling a lot for your job or you have big medical expenses that haven’t been reimbursed, those are the two big ones.
What other student income, such as grant, research or travel awards is usually taxable income?
Most of that isn’t. If you have, like I have a graduate assistantship with the school, that’s something I need to report on the form. On the document you get from the school, it will list grants you received and it takes away what you can claim you paid for the school. But most of it isn’t taxable unless it’s basically a job.
Reach reporter Josie Kerk at Josephine.Kerk@usd.edu.