Tax return season is upon us. Filing taxes can be intimidating for many, but it doesn’t have to be. There are local and online resources to help students understand potential tax credits and file with ease.
First, it is important to know your dependency status. In a nutshell, if you are claiming yourself on all your tax forms, you are independent. If your parents are claiming you, then you are a dependent. If you’re still unsure, discuss your dependency status with your parents before you file your taxes.
Education-related expenses may qualify you for additional tax deductions. These eligible expenses include, but are not limited to, tuition, required school expenses, books, supplies and equipment. Keep all of your receipts for these school-related costs in a safe place where they will not get lost. This proof is necessary to have on hand if the IRS audits you.
If you are being claimed as a dependent, you cannot claim those expenses, but whoever is claiming you can. Students paying their way through college should highly consider filing independently to take advantage of the tax breaks to receive a higher return.
Paying to file your tax return is often unnecessary. College students often have relatively simple tax returns. The most basic tax return forms that students are eligible for are the 1040A and 1040EZ. The internet can be a helpful resource for learning how to file your taxes or finding an online tax preparation service.
The Tax and Estate Planning Association of Washburn’s School of Law is hosting their annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program to provide help with tax filing for students and community members. VITA will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday from Feb. 2 to April 13 on the first floor in Room 125 of the Law Library. The program does not schedule appointments and it is first-come, first-served.
Each year, Washburn student and faculty volunteers contribute to the programs success.
Professor Lori McMillan is a faculty advisor for the Tax and Estate Planning Association of Washburn Law and has been the site coordinator for the VITA program for eight years. Professor McMillan is proud of how much effort her team of faculty and students puts into helping Washburn and the community during tax season. “The student (and faculty) volunteers spend dozens of hours being trained,” said Professor McMillan.
Volunteers also meet with members of the community to learn about tax filing and how to best serve the Washburn community and city of Topeka with their tax refunds.
VITA is not only for Washburn students, but for the entire community and surrounding areas. “People come from out of town for this program…this program isn’t just for Washburn students, it’s for everybody,” said Professor McMillan.
The tax assistance program is for citizens earning less than $54,000 annually. Below is a list of items to bring to the office to be best assisted: photo identification, all 2018 income statements (W-2 or W-4), social security card, insurance documentation, college expense receipts, bank account information and any other relevant expense or income information for 2018. Bringing a copy of your 2018 tax return may be useful. Married couples must have both spouses present to file a joint return or the return will be incomplete.
There are other VITA sites in the city offering tax assistance to the Topeka community. A full list is available on Washburn Law’s website at washburnlaw.edu.
Luke Wichman, junior finance major, hadn’t heard about the VITA program.
“I haven’t heard of it, but I would definitely check it out,” Wichman said. “I think this is a great opportunity that Washburn students should take advantage of.”
Filing your tax return doesn’t have to be costly or intimidating. Utilize the on-campus program to help you receive the most out of your 2018 tax return.
A more extensive list of documentation to bring to the VITA locations can be found on https://www.irs.gov/individuals/checklist-for-free-tax-return-preparation