1) Do you have to file?

A big question many millennials have is whether or not they have to file a tax return at all.  Regulation on whether you must file or not is associated with the amount of taxable income you received for the year. Even if you did not earn more than the regulated ~$10,000, you may still want to file a tax return. If you are not required to file a tax return, you may still get a refund. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that.

2) Where to file

If you do decide to file a tax return, you have several options for where to file. Everyone knows about Turbo Tax and other software that allows you to file your own return. These programs will walk you through the process step-by-step. I only recommend using them if you have a simple return, such as one W-2 from one job in one state.  Many states and schools have local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs where volunteers are certified by the IRS to file taxes, for free. This is a great way to avoid paying the fees to places like H&R Block, while still being safe and reliable.  Decide what is best for you based on how comfortable you feel about your own tax return and how complicated your return is.

3) When to file

The age-old adage goes that April 15th is the last day to file taxes, but that is not always true. This year, thanks to a federal holiday in DC, Tax Day is “celebrated” on April 18th. However, you should by no means wait until April 18th to file your taxes. As soon as possible, that being as soon as you have all of your necessary paperwork, you should file your taxes. This will leave you with more time to correct errors with your return should they arise. This will also ensure that you’ll get your refund sooner, but we’ll get to that later.

4) Your filing status

Are you single? Are you married? Were you married at the last day of the previous tax year? Those are the types of questions you’ll have to answer to determine your tax status. Single and never married will apply to most students and millennials reading this blog, but some of you may file married filing jointly, or head of household. You should check with the IRS to determine your exact filing status if you are unsure.

5) What income you have to list

Law requires that you list all taxable income on your tax return. That makes sense, right? The better question is, what counts as taxable income? The basic definition of taxable income is income that is eligible for the income tax. If you received it on an official paycheck, it is probably taxable income. If you receive a W-2 or 1099MISC from your employer, that is taxable income that you claim on your taxes. Examples include your salary, lottery winnings, stock profits, etc. Income that goes into your gross income but not your taxable income includes child support, inheritances, welfare benefits, scholarships, etc. Your tax preparer will have more information if you need it.

6) Other things you’ll need to file

Filing your tax return can be a bit laborious if you don’t come prepared. As with most government dealings, you’ll need proper identification such as a driver’s license, passport and/or your social security card, or at least some proof of your social security number, such as on your W-2.  You’ll also need proof of income, which comes on your W-2, a 1099MISC, or a paystub.  If you have other things you’ll need to list on your return, such as lottery winnings, child support, or charitable contributions, bring proof of that as well.

7) Your refund

One of the most exciting parts of being a young taxpayer is that we often get money BACK when we file a return. It’s like the government understands that they are nearly robbing you when they take out so many taxes and want to repay the favor by giving some of them back to you. While the amount of your refund will depend on your filing status, your income, and the number of exemptions you can claim, but as young, working millennials we can only hope that our hard earnings aren’t going to waste, and that in three to six weeks, we’ll get a nice payment in return.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member