Students neglect to take advantage of tax services

A’sha Noble
Opinion Staff Writer
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Students may wonder why they should file taxes, but would never walk past a $100 bill on the street without picking it up. Metaphorically, this happens every year when U.S. citizens who are estimated to receive a refund do not file taxes.
“If you have worked in the past year, the odds are very high that you will receive a refund,” said Joe Sulock, professor of economics at UNC Asheville.
Zaria Lyles, a sophomore management student, said she files her own taxes to reap the maximum benefit.
“I have five jobs, so I found it a necessity to get my taxes filed. I learned how to do them online by myself and now don’t have to pay anyone,” Lyles said.
Though it is not the case for all, many receive tax refunds from the IRS. This can be especially useful for college students.
“College is so expensive. Have you seen the price of our meal plans?” said Zach Tuggle, a junior atmospheric science student.

As the season for income tax returns arrives, many students hesitate to file taxes either because they do not understand the importance of filing or they simply do not know how. Photo courtesy of flickr user Pictures of Money.

According to the IRS, there are several ways taxes can help compensate for education costs. This includes savings plans, deductions and education credits. Education credits reduce the amount of tax owed on a tax return.
“Older students, 24 and older, may qualify for education credits even if they are a part-time student,” Sulock said.
Students may be eligible for either the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit, according to the IRS. Eligibility is determined by a students enrollment status, whether they are pursuing their degree within the tax year, criminal record and if they, a dependent or a third party are paying their education expenses.
Education tax credits are claimed through filing Form 1098-T. According to UNC Asheville’s Student Accounts, Form 1098-T is a statement of qualified tuition and fees charged during the period from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 each year by UNCA that they provide to the student and to the IRS.
Services are available for students who are unfamiliar with the tax filing process.
“Students can have their income tax returns prepared for free by UNC Asheville volunteers as part of the IRS VITA program.”  Sulock said.
UNC Asheville’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service is now eight years in and counting. This year VITA will be available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday until April 7, at Pack Memorial Library on 67 Haywood St in Asheville. They will be taking a break from filing the week of spring break but will be right back at it again the following week.
According to the IRS website, a person qualifies for free tax preparation services such as this when their income is under $54,000 a year. Sulock said he encourages students to take advantage of this free service.
“I do plan on filing, I just haven’t received all of my W-2s yet,” Tuggle said.
State Employees Credit Union offers tax filing services as well. State Employees Low-Cost Tax Program offers tax filing services this year for $75. Preparers will be able to complete both federal and North Carolina tax returns.
According to the IRS, most refunds are issued in 21 days or less.According to the IRS, more than nine out of 10 refunds are issued in less than 21 days. It can take longer to recieve your refund if there is a delay in your tax return or if additional information is needed.
The deadline to file a tax return is April 17 this year. Gathering documents needed for this process can take some time. Photo identification, W-2 forms, Social Security card and 1098-T forms are all needed when seeking preparation services. The earlier the process is started the earlier a refund will be received.