Basics of Taxes, Part 3: Filing Status and Tax Credits

apple-256261_1280In this part, we’ll talk more about the mechanics of filing your tax return. This includes things such as choosing a filing status and deciding which form to use.

Filing Status

Your filing status affects which tax bracket is used to calculate your taxes, and also determines things such as the size of your standard deduction.

Most college students will likely use a filing status of “single,” but not always. For example, if you’re married your only options are to file as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.”

Head of household may also be an option if you have children.

Which Tax Form?

There are 3 tax forms you can use:

  1. Form 1040-EZ: for people with income only from W-2s and savings accounts, and who do not have kids and are not claiming any other deductions or credits other than a personal exemption and the standard deduction.
  2. Form 1040A: for people with income only from W-2s and savings accounts, but also claiming tax credits such as education credits or the earned income credit.
  3. Form 1040: for all other situations.

Tax Benefits for College Students

  • American Opportunity Credit
  • Lifetime Learning Credit
  • Deduction for tuition and fees
  • Deduction for student loan interest

WARNING: Proceed with caution on claiming any of these tax benefits on your tax return if your parents are still claiming you as a dependent on their tax return! We’ll discuss in more depth in Part 4.