Filing Your Taxes 101: A Student’s Guide

Coming down from holiday hoopla can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a college student. You return to campus after a long break, prepare for a new semester of classes, and it’s only a matter of time before a Starbucks barista is handing you a shot of espresso to get you through a late-night cramming session.

Filing your federal tax return on top of it all seems, well, a bit scary. The good news? It doesn’t have to be.

Here are some tips and tricks that will help you navigate through tax season like a pro:


Leverage free tax assistance programs. My Free Taxes, powered by United Way, offers free online tax preparation software to everyone who makes less than $66,000 a year. My Free Taxes also provides free federal and state filing (up to 3 states), and filing can be done on a desktop or straight from your mobile device.


Don’t procrastinate (unlike that chemistry exam you waited until the day of to study for). Gathering your documents early, like your W2s and 1040s, will give you time to meet with the right people and make sure your filing is done correctly. It also helps to keep all your forms in one place.


Being a student can pay off…literally. As a student, you may be eligible for deductions, which reduce the amount of your income that is subject to tax. If you’re a college student enrolled in a educational institution recognized by the IRS, this can include anything from tuition and fees to textbooks.


Know your status – and we don’t mean on Facebook. Are you single? Married? Being claimed as a dependent by your parents? Head of your household? Know how you’re filing; it’s important and can help determine what results in the lowest tax.


Swimming in student loan debt? The interest you paid during the year on a qualified student loan is deductible. Look for the 1098-E form from your student loan servicer if your interest payments met or exceeded $600.


Give back. Did you recently give away some of your clothes to a local non-profit? Perhaps you donated money to your favorite charity over the year? If it is a qualified organization, like United Way, giving back can qualify you for a deduction. You’ll want to keep proof of your donations.


Death and taxes are certain, but you can relax this season knowing My Free Taxes can make at least one of those things easier.