Adulting is scary! Suddenly, money is everywhere and confusing. Part of that confusion can definitely stem from filing taxes. Taxes, however, can be tackled, no matter how mysterious. Here are some FAQs about filing taxes as a college student.

***Please note that Let’s Go to College CA can not offer professional tax advice. This post serves as a collection of answers found online. Consult a tax professional for specific questions regarding your unique situation***

Q: Do college students need to file taxes?

A: ANYONE who is single (not legally married) AND earned more than $12,400 in 2020 is required to file taxes. Earned income includes salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and taxable scholarships and fellowship grants. 

Additionally, you are required to file taxes if your unearned income was more than $1,100. Unearned income includes taxable interest, ordinary dividends, capital gain distributions, unemployment compensation, taxable social security benefits, pensions, annuities, and distributions of unearned income from a trust.   

Source: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 

Q: Can my parents still claim me as a dependent?

A: Yes! Your parents can claim you as a dependent until you are 24 years old AS LONG AS they provide more than HALF of your living support AND you are a full-time college student. If your parents provide less than half of your support and/or if you are not a full-time student, you should file your taxes independently from them.

Source: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 

Q: Can I file my own taxes as a dependent?

A: Yes! Even if you are a dependent, you may still file taxes if you had earned income in 2020. If you had a job where you were taxed, you may be entitled to a refund. All you have to do is note in your tax return that you will be claimed as a dependent with your parents. A tax preparer or tax preparing website will assist you with this. 

Source: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 

Q: What is the American Opportunity Tax Credit?

A: If you/your parents make less than $80,000 a year, you may be entitled up to a $2,500 credit from the government. The credit is meant to help you pay for qualified education expenses. The main factors of eligibility are being enrolled at least half-time during the beginning of 2020, not having finished the first 4-years of higher education, and having no felony or drug conviction.

If the credit brings down the overall tax you owe to zero, you can have 40 percent of any remaining amount of credit (up to $1,000) refunded to you.

Source: Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Q: What information do I need to file taxes?

A: The main things you will need to file your taxes are your social security number, your mailing address, a W-2 form(s) (provided by your employers), a 1098-T (provided by your school), and a 1098-E (provided by your school loan servicer). 

Source: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 

Q: Can I file taxes if I am undocumented?

A: Yes! If you are undocumented, you are required to file taxes if you made more than $12,400 in 2020. 

Source: The Balance

Q: What if I don’t have a social security number?

A: If you do not have a social security number, but still are required to file taxes, you can use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The ITIN does not allow you to work legally in the U.S., but can be used when reporting taxes. To get an ITIN, you can apply for one through the IRS. 

Source: Internal Revenue Service and The Balance

Q: What if I don’t have a mailing address?

A: You can choose to use a P.O box for tax filing purposes. If you are experiencing homelessness, however, you can ask a shelter or service center if you may use their address on your records and they may allow it.

Source: Get It Back 

Q: Can I claim a device such as a laptop or a tablet as a qualifying educational expense?

A: Yes! If you bought a device in 2020 because it was required for school, then it qualifies as an education expense. However, if you are claiming the Lifetime Learning Credit, you may not deduct equipment purchased from the education institution. 

Source: Turbo Tax