fortunately, most college students and recent college graduates have bare tax returns and can use free filing tools to file cheaply and easily. however, keep in mind that some free file tools offer loose federal charge, but appoint for state taxes. If you live in a state with income tax, that could affect the software you choose .
In some cases, it ’ s not clear if your filing is actually detached. For case, some services don ’ metric ton order you whether you qualify for a free tax refund until you reach the end of the tax return questionnaire. Others may try to sell you on extra options, much pitched as a room to get a bigger refund. Before you start filling out your taxes, it ’ mho crucial to check to make surely you ’ re eligible to file for rid .
Options for Filing Taxes for Free
- You can use the IRS Free File tool, which allows you to file your taxes yourself at no cost if you earned less than a maximum amount.
- If you need a hand, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who make $56,000 per year or less. Find a VITA site near you.
- Many colleges partner with VITA to offer students free tax assistance. Check with your college or nearby colleges to learn more.
- There are several services listed below that offer free tax return filing. Each service has different requirements for free filing, so check those requirements before you start. For example, Jackson Hewitt offers free federal and state filing if you have no children or dependents, have a joint income below $100,000 and take the standard deduction. Many programs limit free filing to people who use the online self-service version of their tax preparation tools.
Free Filing for Both Federal and State Taxes
Free Filing for Federal But Charge an Additional Cost for State
pro tip : If you have student loan debt and receive a tax refund, put that money toward your debt. And check out 70 ways to pay off student loans faster .
Do College Students Have to File Taxes?
Filing taxes can be a time-consuming and annoyance action. Yet while most people have to put in the attempt to file, not everyone is required to do indeed. If you ’ re a scholar, there ’ mho a casual that you aren ’ t required to submit a tax return .
For example, independent students who meet all of the trace requirements do not have to file taxes .
- You’re under 65
- You don’t have any special circumstances that require that you file (such as running a small business)
- Your earnings are under the standard deduction for your filing status
|Filing Status||2020 Standard Deduction|
|Married, Filing individually||$ 12,400|
|Married, Filing jointly||$ 24,800|
|oral sex of family||$ 18,650|
If your parents claim you as a dependant, you must file a tax revert if your entire earn income is greater than the standard deduction. In 2020, the standard deduction for most dependent students is the greater of $ 1,100 or the kernel of $ 350 plus the amount of their earned income ( up to $ 12,400 ) .
But flush if you aren ’ t required to file taxes, filing is normally a good theme. Most employers will deduct income taxes from your paychecks. even if you don ’ t make enough that you ’ re required to file, you may be eligible to claim a refund from the government .
Filing a tax render besides means you may be able to claim the many tax benefits that the politics provides to students, such as tax credits and deductions based on being in college .
There is no penalty for filing taxes when you aren ’ triiodothyronine required to, but there may be penalties if you fail to file when required. so, if you ’ ra uncertain, you should file good to be dependable .
What Happens if You Don’t File Taxes?
It ’ mho important that you file your taxes if you ’ re required to file. Failing to file can lead to hefty penalties .
If you don ’ triiodothyronine file your taxes by the April 15th deadline, the IRS will charge a punishment adequate to 5 % of the sum you owe for each calendar month that the render is belated, astir to a maximum of five months. The minimum punishment for filing more than 60 days late for 2020 is $ 435 .
If you file your taxes but fail to pay the come owed, the IRS charges a penalty of 0.5 % of the total ascribable each month, up to a maximal penalty of 25 % of the amount due .
The good news program is that these penalties only apply if you owe money to the IRS. If the IRS owe you a refund, there typically aren ’ t penalties for failing to file, you simply won ’ triiodothyronine get the money the IRS owe you .
There are a few ways to avoid these penalties. For example, you can file for an extension, which gives you more meter to file your taxes. If you don ’ thyroxine file for an extension but hush file late, you can plead your case to the IRS if there are extenuating circumstances explaining the miss deadline, such as a stay in the hospital that stopped you from preparing and filing .
Students who fail to file will miss out on tax incentives offered by the government to students. On top of the above penalties, failing to file could impact your fiscal aid in the following school year .
If you report different information on your tax return or your FAFSA, or don ’ thymine file a tax recurrence when your FAFSA indicates that you should have, your school may notice the conflicting information .
If this happens, you won ’ thyroxine be eligible to receive fiscal aid until you resolve the conflict information, which means filing a tax refund and paying any penalties .
Tax Credits and Deductions for Students and Recent Graduates
One of the many reasons students should file their taxes is that the government offers tax credits and deductions for qualifying students. Some of these programs let you reduce your tax bill by reducing your taxable income. Keep in mind, however that the IRS does not allow double-dipping when it comes to education tax benefits. different expenses must be used to justify each deduction or recognition .
Others are tax credits that you can use to pay your tax bill or receive as a tax refund .
Student Loan Interest Deduction
The scholar loanword interest tax write-off is a tax profit that applies to current college students and graduates who have scholar lend debt .
Requirements for the student loanword interest deduction :
- You paid interest on a qualifying student loan
- You were enrolled in school on at least a half-time basis
- There is a legal obligation for you to make those interest payments
- Not filing as married, filing separately
- No other taxpayers claim you or your spouse as a dependent
- Your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) falls below a threshold that changes yearly
If you qualify, you can deduct the lesser of $ 2,500 or the measure you paid in interest from your taxable income .
The student loan interest deduction reduces the adjusted arrant income on your federal tax return. You don ’ t have to itemize your lend interest payments to claim the tax write-off .
American Opportunity Tax Credit
The American Opportunity Tax Credit is available to independent students and parents of dependent students .
To qualify for the credit, students must meet these requirements :
- Be pursuing a degree or other recognized educational credential
- Enrolled in school on at least a half-time basis for one academic period (such as a semester)
- Not have completed four years of higher education at the start of the tax year
- The American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Hope Scholarship Credit is limited to four tax years per student
- No felony drug convictions by the end of the tax year
- Your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) falls below a specified threshold
- You are not claiming the Lifetime Learning Credit for the same tax year
Taxpayers who meet these requirements may claim the credit rating, or a part of the credit, based on their income .
In 2020, single taxpayers may claim the broad credit if their Modified Adjusted Gross Income ( MAGI ) is $ 90,000 or less. The credit phases out completely at a MAGI of above $ 90,000. married taxpayers may claim the wax credit rating with a MAGI of $ 160,000 or less, with it phasing out completely at a MAGI of above $ 180,000 .
The credit rating can cover up to $ 2,500 of your tax liability each year. You receive a credit for 100 % of the inaugural $ 2,000 paid toward education each class and 25 % of the following $ 4,000 paid. If the credit reduces your tax indebtedness to $ 0, you can receive 40 % of the remaining sum as a tax refund .
Lifetime Learning Tax Credit
The Lifetime Learning Tax Credit can reduce your tax placard by up to $ 2,000 and applies to people who pay for tutelage or undergraduate, graduate, and professional department of education. You can claim the Lifetime Learning recognition every class that you qualify.
A student must meet these requirements in 2020 to qualify :
- You or your dependent must pay qualified education expenses for higher education
- The eligible student must be enrolled at an eligible institution (college, university, trade school, or other forms of higher education)
- The eligible student is you, your spouse, or your dependent
- Single filers must have a MAGI of $58,000 or less for the full credit (fully phased out at incomes above $68,000)
- Married filers must have a MAGI of $116,000 or less for the full credit (fully phased out at incomes above $136,000)
- You are not claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit for the same tax year
If you qualify, you can claim 20 % of the amount paid toward qualifying expenses, up to a credit of $ 2,000. however, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit is not refundable .
note : For tax year 2021, the income limits for the Lifetime Learning Credit will increase to match the income limits for the American Opportunity Tax Credit .
Tuition and Fees Deduction
The tuition and fees deduction allows taxpayers to deduct up to $ 4,000 spent on education from their taxable income. Like the student lend sake deduction, this deduction is an above-the-line exception from income. Likewise, you can claim the Tuition and Fees Deduction even if you don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate itemize. Keep in thinker that the Tuition and Fees Deduction has been repealed for tax years after 2020 .
Qualified expenses for this subtraction include :
- Tuition and fees
- Required textbooks and supplies
- Qualified expenses paid with student loan proceeds
Some non-qualifying expenses include :
- Room and board
- Medical expenses
- Expenses paid with tax-free scholarships
- Expenses paid for with tax-free earnings from 529 plan distributions
eligibility requirements in 2020 :
- Modified Adjusted Gross Income under $65,000 (the maximum deduction is halved for MAGIs between $65,001-$80,000)
- The education expenses were incurred at a qualifying institution
- The taxpayer isn’t listed as a dependent on someone else’s return
- Cannot file as married, filing separately
- The taxpayer isn’t claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit
- No other taxpayer claims the above credits for the same expenses
Earned Income Tax Credit
The earn Income Tax Credit ( EITC ) is a refundable tax credit given to people who have little amounts of gain income in a tax year. For case, students who work part-time may qualify for the EITC if they meet certain requirements .
Who qualifies for the EITC :
- Cannot file as as married, filing separately
- Have investment income under $3,650
- Have earned income and Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) under limits based on filing status and number of qualifying children
|Number of Qualifying Children|
|Filing Status||0||1||2||3 or more|
|Single, Head of Household or Qualifying Widow(er)||$ 15,820||$ 41,756||$ 47,440||$ 50,954|
|Married, Filing Jointly||$ 21,710||$ 47,646||$ 53,330||$ 56,844|
The utmost credit measure will depend on the numeral of children you have .
|Number of Qualifying Children||0||1||2||3 or more|
|Maximum Credit||$ 538||$ 3,584||$ 5,920||$ 6,660|
While you may not like filing your taxes, it ’ randomness something you have to do every year.
And remember there are tax benefits available for college students that could save you money. It ’ mho crucial to prepare your tax render cautiously so that you can take advantage of these opportunities .