One of the most common mistakes made by college students is that they think they are not required to file their income taxes–some students don’t even know if they have to file or not. The answer to this question is based on the word “income.” The student has to ask him or herself if they have earned any income. If the student is a single dependent and the total earned income for the year was less than $6,100, the student is not required to file their taxes. That doesn’t mean the student shouldn’t file; it just means they don’t have to. The reason why the student should probably file, even if their income falls under $6,100, is because they may get back all or some of the money that was withheld (IRS.gov covers this in more detail). If the student does file, it’s important to avoid mistakes. Mistakes slow down refunds and draw attention to you with the IRS.
Another common mistake is claiming the wrong dependent status. If the student’s parents are already claiming him/her as a dependent then the student should not make the mistake of claiming themselves as a dependent.
Also, many students miss out on education deductions. Whoever pays the student’s tuition (including themselves) can claim certain education-related deductions including those for tuition and fees.
Lastly, some students fail to account for dual state income. If you live in one state, attend school in another, and work in both, you will have to account for the income (and taxes paid) from both states. For example, a student may live in Wisconsin but attend college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since she is a resident of Wisconsin, she will have to claim all of her income there, including the income from Illinois. However, she will get a credit for taxes paid on income in Illinois.
Written by Cindy Garcia, Financial Wellness Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension