Tax tips make life easier for students, IRS

By Alex Kingsbury
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
March 27, 2001

Students who fear filing taxes may find their tasks a bit easier this year, as new services are available to help them with their preparations.

Such services offer many advantages including fast refunds, error proof calculations, step-by-step instructions prepared by professionals, and an easy introduction to the tax system.

And with the online revolution, Americans now have the option of filing on the Internet for free. Many sites even offer free tax filing for students with simple W-2 forms. These sites offer the students the benefits of the fast, simple “e-filing.”

The IRS sponsors a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to aid the public in filling out tax forms. The program’s volunteers prepare tax return information on computers and transmit them electronically to the IRS — free of charge. The nearest VITA site can be found by calling (800) 829-1040.

Some universities including the University of Texas and American University provide tax services to international students. Like the IRS program, trained volunteers assist students with their taxes. According to the IRS the simplest mistakes on tax forms can be the most costly yet are the most avoidable. The IRS suggests these helpful tips:

— Double check that the correct boxes and lines are filled in.

— Double check all figures on the form.

— Be sure to attach all W-2 and 1099 forms that show tax withholdings.

— If money is owed, make checks payable to the United States Treasury.

— Check only one filing status.

The IRS says the four most common errors on tax forms are:

— Incorrectly entered or missing Social Security numbers.

— Incorrect tax entered from the tables.

— Withholding and estimated tax payments entered on the wrong lines.

— Addition and subtraction errors.

The IRS offers these additional tips:

If you are filing a tax return on paper, you should use the simplest form for which you qualify. The simpler the form, the less chance for an error that may cost you money or delay processing of your return.

The simplest IRS form is the Form 1040EZ.

In order to use this form you must be: — Single or married filing jointly

— Under age 65

— No dependents

— Interest income is below $400

— Income or combined incomes below $ 50,000 1040A

— Income or combined incomes below $ 50,000

The maximum deduction for student loan interest increases to $2,000 from $1,500

Students enrolled in undergraduate-level courses paid for by their employers can exclude up to $5,250 in qualified expenses (tuition, books, fees and certain supplies) from their incomes.

Choosing the correct tax form could mean more money in your pocket. Check your tax instructions carefully. The IRS offers additional instructions on its Web site at http://www.irs.gov.

The main taxpayer assistance number is 1-800-829-1040. To order free forms and publications, call 1-800-829-3676. Our TTY/TDD number for the hearing-impaired is 1-800-829-4059. According to an IRS spokeswoman, these lines receive heavy traffic at tax time, so long waits can be avoided by calling late at unusual hours.

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