Filing Your 2012 Taxes in College: A Checklist
Guess what? It’s tax season. What are you going to do about it?
For college students, filing taxes is an incredibly daunting task. After voting on taxes last November, and listening to endless political arguments about who should pay them, the last thing you want to do is file your taxes. Well, whether you’re claiming yourself as a dependent (meaning you pay your own expenses and your parents can’t claim you), or not, suck it up, because it’s time to put on your big boy/big girl pants and start paying your way in America.
Don’t worry though; you will probably get a lot of money back, and you probably have the easiest taxes in the world. (Yeah, that’s right, it only gets more complicated from here.) You can use a 1040ez (yup, easy), and even file online for free using TurboTax. Since it’s only February, you’re still in good shape. Taxes aren’t due until April 15th, but it’s time for you to start gathering the information you need for a fast and easy file.
If you’ve been working, you’re going to need a W-2 from your employer. (Each employer.) Remember when you filled out that form with your Social Security number before you could get a paycheck? Well, that’s how the IRS knows how much your employer paid you. Employers are required to send you a W-2 with this information by the 31st of January. If you don’t have yours yet, contact your employer immediately and ask for one.
Payments for Tuition and Fees
This is the amount you paid for your tuition and fees. If you took out a loan, which goes directly to the institution, and you’re not paying it back yet, you won’t have any tuition payments to claim. If you’re working your butt off and making $1500 tuition payments every month, you’ve got a whopping number to claim for tuition paid. (And kudos to you!)
Required Books and Supplies
Yay! For the first time ever, students are going to get a tax break for that stupid $80 clicker required for their Chemistry class, as well as the $600 worth of books required for courses. If you don’t have receipts, you can go to your bookstore and they will tell you the cost of your books for the semester. This only applies to required materials, so if you have a class that required a laptop or required a DSLR camera, make sure you claim this.
That’s the gist of it. Easy, right? Here are a few other items that may or may not apply to you for your 2012 taxes, depending on your year in college, loan payments, etc.
Scholarships Received: If your school received your scholarship money, you should delete it from your “total tuition” amount, but if you received the money and paid tuition with it, you have to claim it as income. Either way, you’ll want this number.
Parking: If you received a scholarship that you have to claim as income, you are able to claim all related fees, including parking permits and fees. Try to guess what you spend on parking, or gather your receipts.
Interest Paid on Loans: Most students don’t start paying their loans back until they graduate; however, if you started early, you can claim the interest paid. Your loan provider will send you an “Interest Paid” document. If you don’t have it yet, you might want to contact them for it, or simply look at your last statements and accounts from 2012 and use the “Year to Date” interest paid amount.
Charitable Donations: It’s highly unlikely that you should bother claiming your charitable donations. Unless you donated $1000 or more, it probably won’t affect your tax return much. And you can’t claim the $5 you gave to your poor roommate, or the Starbucks card you gave that homeless person on campus.
Photo Credit: 401(K) 2013