It’s tax time, do you know what to do?

Kyle Peterson

Editor’s Note: This story was initially published on Feb. 9, 2009.

It’s tax season again, and for millions of Americans, Uncle Sam is about to come calling. But what does tax time mean for students?

Unfortunately there’s no short answer. The most important variable depends on income. If a student’s yearly income is under a certain threshold, they won’t pay any taxes.

This threshold, according to Doug Borkowski, director for the ISU Financial Counseling Clinic, is $5,450 for students who are claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax filings, and $8,950 for independent students.

Students making less those figures in yearly income aren’t required to file, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t. If they had a job, their employer probably withheld taxes from their paycheck in anticipation of tax season, and they’ll be able to get this money back.

“Any taxes they pay throughout the year, they’ll probably realize a refund,” said Jennifer Higginbotham, office manager with Liberty Tax Services, 110 Main St.

So how to go about filing? Borkowski suggests students explore resources available to them on campus, including the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, available through the College of Business.

Self-help options like TurboTax’s free filing might also be a solution, Higginbotham said.

But for a more complex filing, where the student has significant income or is claiming himself as a dependent in order to receive tax credits, there may be some advantages to seeking professional help.

“The primary reason is that the Iowa State return actually has quite a bit of twists and turns in it,” said Leo Brooker, CPA with Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, 116 Main St.

Many of these twists and turns are designed to save you money, such as education credits for tuition. But the tax code can be quite complex, as there are different credits that apply in different situations, for example “if you live in a federally declared disaster area, which of course Story County is,” Brooker said.

Brooker said he re-did “a turbo tax return about a week ago,” and filed an inheritance differently. The result was that the client “got [an additional] $12,000 back.”

But whether you choose to do it yourself or to seek professional help, start thinking about your taxes now, before it’s too late. Although the April 15 deadline may seem far away, it’ll be here faster than you think.