Multi-digit numbers and unfamiliar terminology often discourage people from completing their tax returns. Many college students, however, are facing the task of completing tax returns for the first time.
If you earned more than $4,850 in wages during the past year, get that W-2 form ready to file your annual tax return.
You must file a tax return for 2004 if you have “unearned income of more than $800, or if your gross income is more than $800 and exceeds your earned income by more than $250,” according to the official Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.
Earned income refers to income you earned from working, which is different from unearned income, obtained from investments. Gross income is the sum of your earned and unearned income.
As college students earning income from wages, filing your taxes can be as easy as signing up for a credit card. Dr. Shirley Dennis-Escoffier, professor in the Department of Accounting, recommends the IRS website for an outline of the tax filing process.
“It is the students’ responsiblity to get their W-2s.”
The first step is to collect personal information, particularly your Social Security number, W-2 form and any other one-time income. The W-2 form is an annual statement of your earnings and withheld taxes from each of your employers.
The second step is to obtain an e-file service, such as H&R Block online, or a tax software like Turbo Tax. If money is a problem, the other alternative is to download the 1040EZ file from the IRS website and manually fill it out yourself. As the name implies, the 1040EZ is quite easy, designed specifically for people with low incomes and no uncommon income sources.
The final step is to submit your form, electronically or by mail, before April 15.
If you are required to file and have not yet received your W-2 form, contact your employer or you can have the IRS call them for you.
By law, employers are to have sent the W-2 forms to their employees by Jan. 31. For those with Federal Work Study jobs, W-2 forms were already sent to your permanent addresses during the month of January.
Although employers send out the forms, “it is the students’ responsibility to get their W-2s,” Dr. Dennis-Escoffier said.
If you have worked in a state that taxes its residents’ income, you must file a state tax return in addition to the federal one. The procedures are separate, yet similar. To file a state tax return, download the appropriate form from your state’s tax board website. The state of Florida, however, does not tax income.
About the W-2 Form
|You should receive a Form W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” from each employer you worked for to prepare your federal tax return.
If you do not receive your W-2 by Feb. 15, contact the IRS for assistance at 1-800-829-1040. Have the following information ready:
– The employer’s name and complete address, zip code, identification number (if known) and telephone number
– Your name, address, zip code, Social Security number, telephone number
– An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and the dates you began and ended employment.
If you misplaced your W-2, contact your employer and be prepared with the information listed above. Your employer can replace the lost form with a “reissued statement.”
>> For more information on filing taxes, visit www.irs.gov or call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
Bryce Pham can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.