For those of you itching to get those taxes done (yes, all two of you): ’tis the season. This year, the due date is April 17th. You get a few extra days since the traditional April 15th deadline falls on a Sunday.
The Graduate Support Services Project recently held a tax workshop for graduate students hosted by the local H&R Block office right here in Berkeley. For those of you who couldn’t make it out here are a few quick pointers on how to get the most bang for your buck this tax season.
First of all, there are 5 different kinds of taxes taken out: Federal, State, Medicare, Social Security, and state disability insurance. For the purposes of filing taxes, state and federal taxes are the main concern. There are a few resources online that the government provides to help you navigate the mysterious world of income taxation. On the state end, California has the State Franchise Tax Board website (www.ftb.ca.gov). Information on federal taxes can be found with the IRS (www.irs.gov).
The process of filing your taxes can be broken down into two steps: 1) calculating your income and 2) reducing your tax.
For graduate students, taxable income will come in the form of scholarships, fellowships, grants, or regular wages for the GSI/GSRs out there. Though it may surprising that scholarships are considered income, fear not for you can make special deductions (i.e. tuition) that make the bulk of scholarships exempt from taxation. If you do have a special situation where your grants and scholarships exceed the cost of tuition, congratulations, but you may have to pay some tax. There are other exemptions that may apply, but that will require more expertise than this post can provide.
If you do have special circumstances or income that make your tax filing situation a bit on the tricky side, you may want to enlist some experts. H&R Block provides free advise and will answer any questions you may have about your peculiar tax situation. If you really don’t want to deal with taxes this year, just bring any tax forms you’ve received in the mail and your taxes from last year, and they will file your taxes for you (for a charge). Call for an appointment or just to ask a few questions.
Here’s the info for the 2 local H&R Block chapters:
Berkeley: 1900 University Ave (and MLK) // 510.548.1395 // Naomi Smith
Oakland (Temescal): 4937 Telegraph Ave. // 510.652.0297