What Do You Need to File Taxes as a College Student?
If you are a college student filing taxes for the first time, it can be hard to keep track of all the documents you need. Use our tax prep checklist to see which tax documents apply to you. Having the information readily available can make it easier to bring home your biggest possible refund.
- Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
- Driver’s license or ID card.
- Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). If you were assigned one by the IRS.
- Last year’s tax return (if you filed). You may need to provide the previous year’s adjusted gross income (AGI) to verify your identity. This information can be found on line 11 of your 2021 form 1040. If you did not file or filed late, use $0 as your AGI.
- Bank account and routing numbers. To set up direct deposit for your tax refund. The first nine digits in the bottom left corner of a paper check is your routing number. The second set of numbers is your account number. The third set of numbers is your check number.
- Form W-2 shows the income you’ve earned from your federal work-study program or employer. You must be issued a Form W-2 if you earned $600 or more for the year from a single employer.
- Form 1099-INT reports the interest your bank paid to you.
- Form 1099-K reports amounts received from payment cards (credit, debit, or gift card), payment apps (Google Pay, PayPal, Venmo, etc.) or online marketplaces (Etsy, eBay, etc.). Starting in 2023, you should receive a Form 1099-K from any of these locations if you earned $600 or more.
- Form 1099-NEC reports non-employee compensation. If you did any freelance or gig work and a business paid you at least $600 for the year, you should receive a 1099-NEC from that business.
Deductions and Credits
- Form 1098-T is provided by your college and reports tuition and related expenses paid, scholarships and grants received, and adjustments from last year. You’ll need this information to see if you’re eligible for education credits such as the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
- Form 1098-E should be provided by your loan servicer if you paid at least $600 in student loans. You may be eligible to deduct a portion of the interest you paid on your federal tax return.
- Receipts for qualified education expenses. This includes tuition and fees required for enrollment as well as books, supplies, computers, and software required for your courses. Expenses that do not qualify are room and board, insurance, medical expenses, transportation, and personal living expenses.
- Records of scholarships, fellowships, and other grants you received. Scholarships, fellowships, and other grants are generally tax-free if you are seeking a degree at an eligible institution and the money was used to pay for qualified education expenses. Any amounts used for room and board, travel, and other costs are taxable. If your scholarship or fellowship requires you to teach or provide other services, the amount received as payment is also taxable.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing Taxes as a College Student:
Do college students have to file a tax return?
College student or not, the IRS requires you to file a federal tax return if you make over a certain amount of income. Single students, with some exceptions for those who qualify as blind, must file a tax return if their:
- unearned income was more than $1,150.
- earned income was more than $12,950.
- gross income (unearned and earned income combined) was more than the larger of $1,150 or your earned income (up to $12,550) plus $400.
Even if you did not make much money, it may be worthwhile to file a tax return anyway. You may be entitled to a tax refund if your employer withheld taxes from your pay.
Can I still be a dependent if I’m in college?
Generally, your parent or guardian can claim you as a dependent if:
- You are under 19 years of age.
- You are under 24 years of age and a full-time student.
- You live with them for more than half of the year except for when you are away at school.
- They pay for more than half of your living expenses for the year.
Are there any tax breaks for college students?
Yes, as a college student you may be eligible for the following tax breaks:
- The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) is worth up to $2,500 per year for eligible college students. Up to $1,000 is refundable which means that you can get that money back even if you don’t owe any taxes.
- The Lifetime Learning Credit is worth up to $2,000 per tax return year.
- The student loan interest deduction allows you to deduct up to $2,500 of interest paid on your student loans.
However, if you are listed as a dependent on your parents’ tax return, then they are the only ones eligible to claim the education credit or deduction.