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Have you been intending to work up a Taxes To-Do List for your college student, but haven’t gotten to it yet? Don’t worry: The Key team has you and your student covered, and we’ll share the most important notes for filing this season.

First up, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, your student has more time to file federal taxes this year, with the deadline extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. Some states are adding an extension as well, so be sure to check yours for when those taxes are due.

Aside from deadlines, many college students may wonder whether they even need to file a return. If their income was below a minimum threshold, called the Standard Deduction – $12,200 for single taxpayers in the 2019 tax year – then they’re not required to file a federal tax return. However, if they worked and had income taxes withheld from their paychecks, they may still want to file in order to get a refund. Generally speaking, if your student receives a W-2 form, they should file a federal tax return. They can also find any withholdings noted on their pay stubs.

State-to-state, situations may vary: A student holding down a job at school in one state who also worked at home during breaks in another state would probably need to fill out three returns altogether. (One for each state and one for federal taxes.) In states that don’t collect income taxes, this won’t be an issue.

This Will Be on the Test

If there’s one crucial piece of information your college student absolutely needs to know, it’s their dependency status: Make sure they’re aware whether you’ll be claiming them as a dependent when you file your taxes.

Full-time college students can be claimed as dependents until they are 24 years old, as long as parents are responsible for at least half of the student’s financial support (not counting scholarships and grants).

College students need to know this because if you claim them as a dependent, they can’t claim themselves as a dependent if they file a tax return. One other point that can be confusing is that even if you don’t claim them, as long as they are eligible to be claimed, they’ll need to mark the “I can be claimed on someone else’s return” box on their own tax return.

If there’s one crucial piece of information your college student absolutely needs to know, it’s their dependency status: Make sure they’re aware whether you’ll be claiming them as a dependent when you file your taxes.

You should also give your student a heads-up on a few of the IRS tax forms they’re likely to encounter:

  1. Form 1040-EZ: This is the basic income tax return form for filers with no dependents.
  2. Form W-2: Students who worked in the previous year need to watch out for this employer-provided document, which includes the necessary information for filing a tax return. Depending on where and when they worked, one or more of these may come to the parents’ address.
  3. Form 1099: This usually reports income from freelance or contract work and is only required if the student earned more than $600.
  4. Form 1098-T: Student tuition statement, provided by the college.
  5. Form 1098-E: Provided by a student loan lender if the student paid more than $600 in interest in the previous year.

Federal Tax Credits

There are a couple federal tax credits that can help lower college students’ tax liability: The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the lifetime learning credit. If you’re claiming your college student as a dependent, you’ll claim these on your own return.

Qualifying students can get a maximum of $2,500 in credit for certain education expenses under the AOTC, or up to $2,000 under the lifetime learning credit. These credits aren’t refunds: They only help cover any taxes owed, and only one of the two can be claimed each year, so do your homework and see if they apply to your situation, and which is better for you or your student.

Filing taxes for the first time can feel overwhelming, especially to a college student with a lot on their mind and schedule. Keeping in touch and communicating openly about the process can help.

Tax Takeaways for Your Student

  • Understand filing requirements
  • Recognize that tax situations may vary from state-to-state
  • Know dependency status
  • Become familiar with the common forms
  • Claim tax credits and higher education deductions

This information and recommendations contained herein are compiled from sources deemed reliable, but are not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or are offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on key.com, you will leave the KeyBank website and jump to an unaffiliated third-party website that may offer a different privacy policy and level of security. The third party is responsible for website content and system availability. KeyBank does not offer, endorse, recommend, or guarantee any product or service available on that entity's website.

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