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Step by step guide on how to approach tax season

Student+Danny+Wellmeier+does+his+taxes+online+in+class+in+hopes+that+his+student+peers+can+help+him.
Destin Lopez
Student Danny Wellmeier does his taxes online in class in hopes that his student peers can help him.

Tax season is among us, and for many college students, it can be a confusing time. There is no need to worry though; a little bit of research can help make the process easier.

The first step to prepare for doing your taxes this year is to gather all the paperwork and information necessary. This will include any W-2s from jobs you worked at from Jan. 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2023, a 1098-T from your college (Northwestern State University of Louisiana students can find this form on myNSU), records of any scholarships or grants you received in 2023 and records of any expenses like education supplies and student loan interest. While you may not end up using all this information, having it by your side when you go online to do your taxes is very helpful.

The next step is to determine your filing status. If you are under 24, unmarried and your parents pay for over half of your expenses, your parents are most likely going to claim you as their dependents.

If you are independent and pay for more than half of your own expenses, or you are married, you can file as independent, regardless of how old you are. If you can, discuss with your parent or guardian to figure out what you plan to do for this tax year. If you file as an independent, and your parents try to claim you as their dependent, it can affect both of your taxes.

Once you have gathered your paperwork and have determined your filing status, now it is time to determine where you are going to file your taxes.

There is always the option to get your taxes done by a tax professional, however this is going to be expensive and is not usually necessary for a college student. Depending on how much you make a year, you may be eligible to file online for free. The IRS has a list of trusted tax websites for you to file for free if you are eligible. https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/browse-all-offers/

These websites will guide you through each step of the tax process, and most of it will be easy. You will just have to look at your paperwork and copy the numbers over. It is necessary to double check all numbers and information that you put in though, because if you accidently put something in wrong, this may cause issues with the government. This is the part where you will use the information from your W-2s.

If you are filing as an independent, and you pay out of pocket for tuition, you may be eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The AOTC is only available for the first four years of post-secondary education. You must be enrolled at least half-time in college, and have an income under their limit, which most students will have. This credit can provide up to $2,500, which can be an extreme help for college students having to pay their own tuition.

While using the guided websites above to file your taxes, it should ask you if you are currently enrolled in college where you will click yes, and you will click yes to file for the AOTC. You will enter in the information from your 1098-T, and any education related expenses that you had last year. How much you will get from this tax credit will depend on how much you paid for tuition and expenses.

There is no reason to fret about having to file your taxes. Remember that most college students are filing for the first time too, and you are not alone in being confused. Do not be afraid to go online to ask questions or to ask an adult for help. Take your time while filing, and soon enough you will be finished. Happy tax season!

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About the Contributor
Destin Lopez, Current Sauce - Viewpoints Editor
Destin Lopez is a senior communication major, with a minor in pre-law and paralegal studies at NSU. She is currently the 2023 Viewpoints editor of the Current Sauce. She has had a love for writing and design since highschool, where she spent two years as the Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook. Destin is excited to share her stories to NSU and Natchitoches, and is hoping to leave a mark with her writing.

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