Government offers tax services, credits to college students

Jens Krogstad

Students who don’t have their taxes done don’t need to panic – yet.

Last-minute filers have a variety of options, including a free online service at www.irs.gov. State taxes can also be filed online at www.state.mn.us.

“Most university students are very computer literate, so if they want to tackle those problems themselves, they can do so,” H&R Block district manager Mark Mehrhoof said.

The online services are only available to those who meet certain criteria, but Mehrhoff said most college students do.

If filing the old-fashioned way, it takes approximately one hour for the average college student to fill out federal and state tax forms if they have their W-2 forms.

For students finishing tax forms after post offices close at 5 p.m., the federal government has that covered too.

“We have several options for the procrastinators,” said Jim Ahlgren, U.S. Postal Service public relations director.

Minneapolis’ main downtown post office offers curbside pickup until midnight Tuesday, provided the proper postage is on the package.

The Mall of America’s office is open until 11 p.m. today, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s post office is open 24 hours per day year-round.

People who need more time to file can also file extensions by phone or mail. Filers need to fill out the appropriate forms or call a toll-free number by Tuesday; the IRS Web site displays information for both options.

Kirk Cox, manager of DC Financial in Dinkytown, said it is important to make the distinction between filing tax returns and making payments.

He said it is possible to file an extension for tax returns, but payments must be made by their deadlines. If they are not, late fees will be assessed in addition to any interest charged on the amounts owed.

Cox said students should be aware of a number of tax breaks.

First- and second-year students are eligible for the Hope Scholarship Credit. It matches the first $1,000 of tuition paid dollar-for-dollar, and it matches 50 cents for every dollar of the $500 after that.

Another option for college students is the Lifetime Learning Credit, which matches 20 percent of tuition paid up to $1,000.

Cox said there is a refund available for students who paid rent. A student needs only a “certificate of rent paid,” he said.

Any refund money received will come in August, he said, so students should file a change of address with the state if they are at different addresses over the summer.

Jens Krogstad welcomes comments at [email protected]