LISTEN UP: FREE TAX HELP FOR HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STUDENTS

By Nikia Owens, Ph.D.

In the world of adulthood and independence, filing taxes is a pivotal step, often overlooked by high school and college students, especially those earning minimal income. However, there are compelling reasons why stepping into the realm of tax filing can be beneficial, even for those not riding high on the financial scale. Here are five advantages that underscore why young earners should consider filing their taxes:

1. Retrieve Withheld Taxes: Many students work part-time jobs where taxes are automatically deducted from their paychecks. If you have earned below the standard deduction threshold ($13,850), you are likely owed a refund of the federal and state taxes withheld throughout the year. Filing your taxes is the only way to get this money back. It is like discovering money you did not know you had, which can significantly boost your budget.

2. Qualify for Tax Credits: Just starting out in the workforce does not mean you cannot take advantage of tax credits. For instance, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) are designed to help with educational expenses. These credits can either reduce the tax you owe or increase your refund; in some cases, you might be eligible even if you did not earn a lot.

3. Build Your Financial Literacy: Filing your taxes can be an educational journey, offering a deep dive into personal finance and the tax system. Understanding how taxes work, learning about deductions and credits, and getting to grips with the importance of saving receipts and financial documents can set the foundation for savvy financial management in the future.

4. Establish Your Tax History: Filing your taxes annually establishes a tax history, which can be beneficial down the line, especially when applying for loans or credit. Lenders often request tax return information to verify income and employment history. A consistent filing history can serve as proof of financial stability and reliability.

5. Take Advantage of Free Tax Help: Many high school and college students might be daunted by the prospect of filing taxes due to perceived complexity or fear of making mistakes. However, Campaign for Working Families provides FREE tax preparation services and is available to assist young earners. 

Filing taxes might seem like a chore, particularly for those not bringing in substantial income. However, the benefits—ranging from retrieving hard-earned money, qualifying for financial benefits, enhancing financial literacy, establishing a responsible tax history, and accessing free help—paint a different picture. It is not just about paying your dues but about claiming what is yours, understanding the system, and setting yourself up for a financially literate and responsible future. So, even if your income is on the lower end, consider filing your taxes. It might just be one of the most financially savvy moves you make as a student.

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