To file or not to file?

U-News Staff

In the mail, I recently received a “Combined Tax Statement” in regards to my savings account from my bank. On the same day, I also received a document from one of my previous colleges with the header “Information for Determining Federal Tax Benefits for High Education Expenses.” I have no clue what to do with either of these. These pieces of mail make it undoubtedly clear that state and federal tax preparation time is here, and it’s also time to renew my FAFSA again. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m confused by all of it. I’ve filed my FAFSA every year since I graduated from high school, but I’ve never filed taxes before because I’ve never had a job until this semester.

I really think that there needs to be a class in high school that teaches all of this. There may be classes available in some schools, but I know there weren’t in mine. The government decided to add a “Personal Finance” curriculum requirement for high school students, starting with my class year, in order to help students learn how to manage finances for the future. In this class, we went over writing checks and how to balance a checkbook. I already knew how to do these things, so this class did nothing for me academically. The check and checkbook are almost extinct thanks to debit cards and online banking, which dumbs everything down and makes it to where people don’t even have to do math. Therefore, there are probably more important topics that the class should have taught than what to write in “Pay to the order of” and which box to put the check number in. The class didn’t even mention anything about taxes.

I don’t even know if I am supposed to file taxes since I didn’t have a job. With the ever popular third or fourth party story about someone they know being fined or put in jail for not filing their taxes, it’s a pretty important and worrisome issue.

Every time I ask people for help, I get mixed results. Some people say that I have to because I’m in college and receive grants and loans. Others tell me since I don’t have an “earned income,” I don’t have to file taxes. It would have been beneficial to have all of this explained in a high school course before it got to this point. We already have to take the “Personal Finance” class, so why not just add a segment about taxes to the curriculum? It seems like more people need help with taxes than balancing a checkbook.

I definitely feel that there needs to be an addition to high school curriculum somewhere that educates students about W-2’s and taxes. After you are out of high school – or even before that, if you have a job – it becomes an annual ritual in life. Since high school is supposed to get you ready for the “real world,” as so many of my teachers cautioned, it would probably help to discuss such a topic, so that people will be burdened by it every year for the rest of their lives.

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