Filing taxes as a high school student comes down to your income, age, filing status and whether someone claims you as a dependent on their tax return. If you don't make a certain amount of money, you don't have to file a return. However, you may want to file if you made less than the minimum amount but your employer withheld federal taxes from your paycheck. That way you get the money back in the form of a tax refund.
You have to file a tax return if you’re under age 65, earn more than $10,000 and no one claims you as a dependent. If someone like a parent or guardian claims you as a dependent, the income requirement drops to $6,100. However, if you earn $1,000 or more from interest or investments or you're self-employed and make more than $400, you'll have to file even though you don't meet the minimum income level.
You'll receive Internal Revenue Service Form W-2 from your employer. It lists your earned income in Box 1. Earned income includes wages, salary, tips and commissions. If you were paid as an independent contractor, you'll receive IRS Form 1099, which shows your non-employee compensation in Box 7.
Unearned income comes from investments or interest-producing accounts. These include interest, dividends and capital gains. Some savings accounts, certificate of deposits and bonds generate interest each year. Stocks pay dividends based on the number of shares you own as well as capital gains if its price goes up over the course of the year. If you have unearned income your financial institution sends you a statement or specialized 1099 form showing the amount.
If you're single, have no dependents and earned all your income from an employer, you can use IRS Form 1040EZ. It's a streamlined one-page tax form. You'll need the regular IRS 1040 form if you received unearned income. As an independent contractor, you'll complete the regular 1040 and an additional form called the Schedule C. If you have $5,000 or less in business expenses, you can use the simpler Schedule CZ form. The forms come with instruction booklets that provide step-by-step instructions.
The IRS provides a free online filing service for taxpayers earning less than $58,000 a year. It includes free software that helps you fill out the appropriate forms and file them over the Internet. This is usually the quickest way to file. You can also pick up most tax forms at your local library or print them from the IRS website at IRS.gov.
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