5 Tax Tips From a Tax Expert

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 24, 2020) — Filing your taxes can be confusing. Let’s face it, it's the law, so you want to get it right. To help you navigate tax season, we spoke with Douglas Michael, associate dean of academic affairs in the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program partner for over 30 years. 

Here are the top five things Michael believes students should know about taxes: 

  1. Be sure you have all documentation before working on that return. The main documents students will have are: a W-2 from each job, a 1098-T from the school, interest income information from your bank (they sent you “1099 information” either in the mail or in your online account statements), and access to your student financial aid account.
  2. Don’t pay to have your taxes done! There are plenty of free services for students (assuming you have relatively low income). Check https://law.uky.edu/tax for guidance. Be sure to use sites from the Kentucky Revenue Department if you are a Kentucky resident — those services will allow free filing of both federal and state returns. Or come to the UK Tax Clinic!
  3. Many students are receiving some substantial support from parents at home. An important tax issue to resolve is “Can someone else claim you as a dependent on your return?” You should get that straight with your parents (if that applies to you) before preparing your return.
  4. If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, do not rely on most online services to do your taxes correctly. If you are a UK student, the International Student and Scholar Services office will provide a tax program (Sprintax) to prepare your return correctly. Or come to the UK Tax Clinic! Most online services do not take non-citizens into account, and the result may be a larger refund than you are entitled to, which is always disappointing news when we get around to correcting it later.
  5. The paid preparer industry has a vested interest in making the tax system appear complicated and impossible. This is not true. You’re a college student. Michael encourages you to spend an hour or two with your online free program (see item 2 above) and invest in the intellectual exercise of preparing your own taxes. It’s good civics, financial management and life skill development. Or come to the UK Tax Clinic!

To make an appointment with the UK Tax Clinic, visit the VITA website: https://law.uky.edu/tax.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.