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Tax Filing Season FAQ — Students

I am a full-time college student. Can I claim exempt on my Form W-4 ? Top

You are not automatically exempt from federal withholding because you are a full-time student. To claim exemption from withholding on your Form W-4, the following two statements must be true:

  • For the previous year, you had a right to a refund of ALL income tax withheld because you had no tax liability.
  • For the current year, you expect a refund of all income tax withheld because you expect to have no tax liability.

I am a graduate student and serve as teaching assistant. I would like to know whether FICA taxes need to be withheld from my paychecks. | Top

Students who perform services for the school, college or university where they are enrolled and regularly attend classes are usually not subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes.

If the student works for a public school, college or university that is subject to a section 218 agreement, the student's services are automatically subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes if the state has chosen to cover students under its section 218 agreement with the Social Security Administration. The employer may be able to tell you whether its students' services are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes under a section 218 agreement.

See IRS Publication 15 (PDF) for more information.

I have a child attending a private Catholic grade school. Is any or all of the tuition I pay deductible or a tax credit? | Top

The tuition is neither deductible as an educational expense nor as a charitable contribution, and there are no tax credits for the tuition. You cannot deduct as a charitable contribution tuition, or amounts you pay instead of tuition, even if you pay them for children to attend parochial schools or qualifying nonprofit day-care centers. Refer to IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions (PDF). You also cannot deduct any fixed amount you may be required to pay in addition to the tuition fee to enroll in a private school, even if it is designated as a "donation."

What are the education credits? | Top

Education tax credits can help offset the costs of education. The American Opportunity (Hope Credit extended) and the Lifetime Learning Credit are education credits you can subtract in full from the federal income tax, not just deduct from taxable income. Refer to IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education (PDF) for more information.

How much does a student have to make before he or she has to file an income tax return? | Top

If you are an unmarried dependent, you must file a tax return if ANY of the following apply:

  • You have earned income of more than $5,700
  • You have unearned income of more than $950
  • Your gross income was more than the larger of $950, or your earned income (up to $5,400) plus $300

Even if you do not have to file, you should file a federal income tax return to get money back if ANY of the following apply:

  • You had income tax withheld from your pay.
  • You made estimated tax payments for the year or had any of your overpayment for last year applied to this year’s estimated tax
  • You qualify for the earned income credit. See IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit (EIC) (PDF), for more information.
  • You qualify for the additional child tax. See the instructions in your tax forms package for more information on this.
  •  You qualify for the refundable American opportunity education credit. See Form 8863, Education Credits.
  • You qualify for the health coverage tax credit. For information about this credit, see Form 8885, Health Coverage Tax Credit (PDF).
  • You qualify for the refundable credit for prior year minimum tax. See Form 8801, Credit for Prior Year Minimum Tax — Individuals, Estates, and Trusts (PDF).

To read more filing information, see IRS Publication 501 (PDF).

If I claim my daughter as a dependent because she is a full-time college student, can she claim herself as a dependent when she files her return? | Top

If an individual is filing his or her own tax return and if the individual can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return, then the individual cannot claim their own personal exemption. In this case, your daughter should check the box on her return indicating that someone else can claim her as a dependent.