Taxpayers have five weeks left to submit tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service before the deadline on April 15.
According to an article on www.money.cnn.com, the IRS reported that 10 percent of tax returns claiming education credits were improperly filed by online tax software providers, like TurboTax and H&R Block. Tax refunds may be delayed for to six weeks as a result, according to the article.
Scott Smith, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) employed at Smith, Kunz and Associates in Rexburg, said online tax return resources are good for simple tax returns, but there are benefits from having a CPA help with finalizing a tax return.
“A CPA complies with higher ethical guidelines, they have more experience and are able to answer questions when people don’t understand how to complete their tax returns. By having a live person help you answer difficult tax questions, you are more likely to have no problems submitting your tax returns correctly,” Smith said.
Natalie Shurtz, a junior majoring in university studies, said her parents have forced her to do her own taxes since she got her first job.
“I thought the first time I ever did my own taxes was really hard. I had to ask my sister-in-law for help, who at the time was an accounting major and working at an accounting office. It was frustrating and really confusing,” Shurtz said.
Smith said there are two items he believes students need to be aware of when completing their tax returns.
“The first is students need to determine if they are a dependent, filing with their parents, or an independent, filing separately. The second thing students need to be aware of is their education credits. Students need to keep track of the money they spend on school splies and tuition, because it will determine whether or not they qualify for the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit,” Smith said.
According to www.irs.gov, the American Opportunity and the Lifetime Learning Credit is money students and parents can get back in their tax refund check to help pay for college expenses.
“The maximum amount of money a student can get back from qualifying for these two education credits is to $2,500,” Smith said. “A student can only get a return back from these credits if their tuition and school material fees are more than their Pell grants and scholarships.”
Students can pick a 1098-T form from the accounting office located in the Spencer W. Kimball Student and Administrative Service Building.
The form lists all the money students have paid to their university in tuition, loans, Pell grants and scholarships in the past year.
Jason Cook, a junior studying sociology, said before he received his scholarship, he qualified for American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credit.
“I got more money back with my tax return than I expected,” Cook said. I was surprised and excited, because my tax refund check was more than previous years.”