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Last-Minute Tax Tips for First-Time Filers

by Tracey A. Maine on March 16, 2020

The April 15, 2020, deadline to file your 2019 income tax return is quickly approaching!

If you're a college student who is filing for the first time, the following suggestions can help make the process simpler and less overwhelming for you:

How do I know if I need to file?

Students should file their taxes if they fall into one of the following categories:

  • photo-of-person-holding-pen-1028726You were employed in 2019 and had income tax withheld from your paycheck.
  • You had last year's refund applied to this year's estimated tax or made estimated tax payments.
  • You qualified for tax or education-based credits. 
  • Your parents are not claiming you as a dependent.

What forms do I need to fill out?

Form 1040 is the standard federal income tax form most students use to report their income, claim tax deductions and credits, and calculate the amount of their tax refund or tax bill for the year.

Where can I get the tax forms I need?

You can download any forms you need to do your federal taxes by visiting https://www.irs.gov/forms-instructions

What are my filing options?

Other than having your taxes done by an accountant, students have the option to do them themselves.  

If you fall into this category -- and need some tax-oriented software -- Nerdwallet makes the following recommendations: 

  • H&R Block Free
  • H&R Block Deluxe
  • TurboTax
  • TaxSlayer
  • TaxAct.

What information do I need to file?

Whether you're having your taxes done by a professional preparer or planning to do them yourself, you'll need the following documents

  • Social Security cards for yourself, your spouse and any dependents you plan to claim.
  • A W-2 form that states the income you earned in the past year, and how much you already paid in taxes on those earnings.
  • A 1098-T form that shows the expenses you paid to the college or university last year.
  • A 1098-E will summarize any student loan interest payments you've made.
  • A record of any money you earned by working for a person or entity other than your employer.
  • Proof of any contributions you made to a retirement account
  • Proof of educational expenses you incurred. 
  • Records of any medical bills that you were not reimbursed for.
  • Records of any property taxes and mortgage interest you paid.
  • Records of any charitable donations you made.
  • Records that indicate how much you paid in state and local taxes.
  • Last year's federal and state tax returns.

Are there any free services to help me with my taxes?

Fortunately, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax help to anyone who makes $56,000 or less and needs help preparing their tax returns. 

These returns are prepared by IRS-certified volunteers who provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

Locally, students can receive help with their taxes through VITA courtesy of the Logan-Hocking County District Library

Located at 230 E. Main Street in Logan, Ohio, students must first make an appointment to meet with a VITA volunteer by calling 740-385-2348.

The cutoff date for these services at the Logan-Hocking County District Library is April 9, 2020.

If you are interested in the prospect of doing taxes for a living, then perhaps you should consider becoming a professional accountant.

What does it take to become an accountant?

An accountant is a business professional who records and analyses the financial transaction-based data for an individual, business or organization. Individuals who enter this field usually excel at math, have good computer skills and are extremely detail-oriented. Also, since the majority of people in this profession work unsupervised, anyone considering this profession needs to be self-sufficient, comprehend the importance of ethics and have excellent decision-making skills.

What job duties do accountants perform?

Accountants perform many different duties on a daily basis, including: 

  • money-pink-coins-pig-9660Keeping accurate financial records
  • Complying with all laws and regulations regarding finance
  • Preparing tax returns
  • Performing internal audits
  • Advising clients on taxation matters
  • Properly reporting financial information
  • Preparing financial summaries
  • Suggesting ways an individual or business can save money

What sort of pay can I expect to make?

Currently, accountants make a median pay of $67,190

What do the job prospects look like for accountants?

Industry growth rates indicate that by 2024 they'll be 142,400 new accounting and auditing positions available.

Where can I get the training I need to become an accountant?

Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio has an Accounting & Financial Services degree program. In only four semesters, students can earn their Associate of Applied Business in Accounting & Financial Services degree and prepare to enter this thriving profession!

What skills will I learn in Hocking College's Accounting & Financial Services program?

  • You'll learn how to use accounting-based software to classify, store and retrieve financial data.
  • You'll learn how to perform accounting duties for both Governmental and non-profit agencies.
  • You'll learn how to apply auditing concepts such as sampling, substantive tests and internal control.
  • You'll learn how to prepare both a payroll and state-mandated payroll report.
  • You'll learn how to use journals and ledgers to record business transactions.    
  • You'll learn how to prepare federal tax returns for individuals and businesses.
  • You'll learn how to utilize the accounting cycle.
  • You'll learn how to aid a business owner in making managerial-level financial decisions.
  • You'll learn how to prepare financial statements.

For more information on Hocking College's Accounting & Financial Services program, please contact the college's Dean of Arts, Business & Sciences Ryan Rieder at one of the following by email at riederr@hocking.edu or by phone at 740-753-7214.


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