Image courtesy of manhassetlibrary.org
By James Flett
It’s that time of year again when everyone must pitch in and pay their taxes. Many people don’t file their taxes for all sorts of reasons; they don’t know how, they don’t think they’ll be able to afford to pay them or they simply just don’t want to. However, not filing taxes could have a serious effect on one’s financial security and future.
Students may not know what they can and cannot deduct from their taxes, or how to file them correctly, which can lead to frustration, having to re-file more tax forms or even fines from the government. Most students file as a dependent, meaning if their parents claimed them as a dependent then the student will be unable to deduct school costs from their taxes, but the parents are still able to.
Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) does offer tax classes as well as a program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). VITA is a partnership between the school and the IRS that offers both students and members of the Cape Cod community assistance in filing taxes. All of the volunteers are certified with the IRS to ensure that they are qualified and the program is free to low-mid income people.
“If you don’t file [your taxes] you could get a penalty, especially if you owe money,” said Aimee Bonneau a professor of accounting and tax classes at 4Cs who also works with the VITA program. “The reason a lot of people don’t file if they owe money is they think ‘oh shoot, well I’m not filing then’. In that case, it’s illegal to not file, but it’s not illegal to have a debt to the IRS.”
This means that even if you think you will owe money you can’t afford to pay, it is still important to file your taxes to avoid government penalties. Students must also submit a tax form when applying for FAFSA, so filing taxes is necessary to receive financial aid.
Some people may use programs such as Turbotax or Taxslayer to file their taxes.
“The thing is with those programs is if you input something incorrectly, at the end you have no way of knowing if its correct or not,” said Bonneau. “So, if you make an error in the input, and you don’t know much about taxes, you wouldn’t know if it was wrong.”
According to the IRS, the fastest way to get a tax return is by “E-Filing”. They claim that it usually takes about 3 weeks to get a return, but it can sometimes be faster if the money is delivered through a direct deposit. There is also a downloadable and printable PDF file on IRS.gov which can be submitted by mail, though this method usually takes about six to eight weeks to see a return.
“I file my taxes as soon as possible, the first week of February,” said 4Cs student Amy Webster, a client of H&R Block when filing.
One of the advantages of filing with your bank is that they already have most of your financial information. This can simplify the process and save you time when filing. The problem is that many students have never been taught about taxes and they don’t know the simplest, fastest ways to file.
“I think finances and taxes should be taught starting in high school,” Webster said.
If more students were taught about taxes in high school, by the time they reach college they would have a better chance of grasping the concept. Although some high school teachers do integrate tax education into math classes, it is not a required part of the average curriculum. It is important for schools to teach students not only the general curriculum, but life skills as well.