Tax tips for the financially challenged student

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle
Illustration by Leone Brander, Design Director
Illustration by Leone Brander, Design Director

Cherry blossom trees have begun popping up on Instagram feeds again, which can only mean one thing: tax season is here. For a lot of students, this might involve the simple task of forking over the income slips from your minimum-wage summer job to your parents or math-inclined uncle. But for those of you who have to do your own taxes this spring, here are a few basic tips to help you dip into adulthood, and maybe even add a few more bucks to your return for end-of-the-semester beer.

Tip one: Download tax software

Taxes can get a little confusing. What is net income? What is gross income? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, it’s best you take advantage of free tax software available for download online. Skip the expensive payments to a local accountant as many providers offer basic programs for free, which usually have enough features for what a student would need anyway (provided you don’t own your own business or anything tricky like that). For a student, any free software will work, so take your pick: H&R Block, TurboTax, UFile — they’ve got you covered.

Tip two: Get your forms in order

Now that you have your software downloaded, it’s time to start entering your (probably minimal) dolla bill info into the appropriate lines. This includes any T4s that you got from employers from the previous year (your boss should have mailed them to your most recently provided address), T2202As for tuition and scholarships, and any other forms regarding your 2016 income. At UVic, you can find your T2202A information on your My Page under the ‘Finances’ tab and then the ‘Forms for Income Tax’ tab. Once you have your forms, you can enter their information into the tax software. Each amount on your forms will have a corresponding line number that you simply plug into your tax software boxes. If something is missing, the tax software should let you know.

Tip three: Claim ~everything~ 

Sometimes you’ll hear a customer say, “Can I have my receipt? I’m going to try to claim this Venti-No-Foam-Latte as a business expense.” Turns out they’re not just flirting with you or trying to find out your name by looking at the receipt, disappointing as this may be. There are actually a ton of things that you can claim that you wouldn’t normally think of. Here are just a few:

  • Tuition of up to $5 000
  • Government student loan interest (Look out for a letter that tells you how much interest you paid this year)
  • Moving more than 40 km for school (This one’s for you, first-years)
  • Cost of your bus pass
  • Child care costs
  • Share of rental expenses (if you’ve lived with other student roomies or in a dorm)
  • Medical expenses if your year’s expenses exceeded more than 3 per cent of your net income or $2 011 (so buy the birth control! It essentially pays for itself! Plus, then you won’t need to worry about the greater expense of child care . . . )

Sure, taxes can be a headache. But you too can become a fully-fledged adult this year by filing them all by yourself. And don’t forget: May 1 is the first day of summer courses, and THE DEADLINE FOR FILING YOUR INCOME TAXES. This is a deadline you can’t get away with missing (unless you literally want to pay a penalty for it), and there’s (usually) no extensions. So this spring, spread your wings, file your taxes, and don’t forget to brag about it to the babies that still get their parents to do it for them.