Filing tax returns early promotes speedy refunds

Than Tibbetts

Although the deadline for filing tax returns is three months away, filing early could mean receiving tax refunds sooner rather than later.

Many tax services now offer the ability to file taxes online for free. The Internal Revenue Service has a list of “Free File” services on its Web site, www.irs.gov.

Taxes are due April 15.

Minnesota also has a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Trained volunteers offer free tax help at more than 450 places in the state.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue’s Web site says online tax-filing tools will be available Feb. 1.

Duane Butzin, a tax adviser with H&R Block, said students need to check with their parents to see if the parents will claim the student as a dependent on their return.

“In some cases, that’s better, because they’re in a higher tax bracket,” he said. “It can help the parents more, if they claim the student as a dependent.”

It is important to work out the situation beforehand, because if both a parent and a student claim the student on the tax returns, they can expect a letter from the IRS, Butzin said.

Butzin said students should also look at whether they are even required to file an income tax return.

“But even if you don’t have to file, you may also want to file a return to get back a refund of any withholdings,” he said.

Students from other states also need to do their homework, Butzin said. If out-of-state students work while at school in Minnesota and back home, they might need to file income tax returns in both states.

“Each state has different rules on income tax, so watch out, because Minnesota’s rules are different,” he said.

Students can get income tax information from a variety of sources, and much of it is just a mouse click away.

For example, an article at Bankrate.com offers “A dozen tax tips for college students.”

The article suggests students should avoid waiting until April to start working on their taxes. Filing taxes early means a faster refund.

It will also help to let the tax return “cool off” for a night. Do not send it as soon as it is finished. Double check it the next day before licking the envelope.