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Taxes: The What, Who, and How

 filing-taxes

We know tax preparation isn’t fun, but, unfortunately, it’s necessary. Though it may seem like an inconvenience, filing your taxes correctly can sometimes give you a nice return. You may be reluctant to begin because of the confusion on where to start or what information is necessary. We are here, however, to simplify taxes for you so the task can seem less daunting.

What are income tax returns?

Income tax returns are documents that are used to evaluate whether you owe any taxes this year or if you are eligible for a tax refund. Taxes are calculated based on your total income minus any deductions you are eligible for.

Who has to file a federal income tax return?

As a student with their first job or someone who may not be too informed about what taxes are, you may be wondering if you even should file them.

If you fit one of these descriptions, then you will need to file a federal income tax return:

  • Gross income is over $10,000 as a single filer
  • Gross income is over $20,000 as a married joint filer
  • Earned over $400 from self-employment
  • Sold your home during the tax year
  • You owe taxes because of your retirement accounts (from distributions or excess contributions)
  • You owe Social Security and Medicare taxes on tips that were not reported to your employer or on wages that your employer did not withhold these taxes from

Even if you do not owe taxes, you may still be eligible for a refund.

Examples:

  • Earned Income Credit— This is a refundable credit designed for taxpayers who earn wages, yet fall into a low-income tax bracket. In many cases, people who qualify for this credit can receive a tax refund that is larger than the total amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks.
  • Child and Dependent Care Credit If you paid to take care of a child (under the age of 13 and in your custody) or a spouse or adult dependent who is incapable of self-care, you may qualify for this tax credit, which can offset a percentage of the cost of their care.
  • Education Tax Credits— There are 2 main education tax credits for qualified expenses (such as tuition and enrollment fees) paid by certain taxpayers for themselves, their spouse, or a dependent.
  • Savers Credit— Some taxpayers may be eligible to claim a tax credit for a portion of the money they contributed to a qualifying retirement account.

Ways to file your return:

The old-fashioned way:

You can always work with ye ol’ pen and paper to complete the forms. To figure out which form is the correct form to use, check out the official website.

Hire a professional:

If you don’t have the time or confidence to file your taxes yourself, you could always hire a tax professional to assist you.

Receive Help:

If you make $54,000 or less, have a disability, or have limited English speaking capabilities, you are eligible to take advantage of VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). This program allows qualified households to receive tax return assistance by IRS-certified volunteers.

USC Vita is USC’s local chapter of this organization. Come to the USC Credit Union or the USC Community Computing Center during their operating hours to meet with a Vita member!

Financial Software:

Take advantage of the digital age! Software like TurboTax and TaxAct can help simplify the process of filing taxes.

If you are more of a visual learner, we can help with that.  Check out our educational tool Financial Focu$ to see interactive and engaging modules on various financial topics including taxes!

Sources:

https://www.irs.com

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