Many students take a job in the summer after school lets out. If it’s your first job it gives you a chance to learn about the working world. That includes taxes we pay to support the place where we live, our state and our nation. Here are eight things that students who take a summer job should know about taxes:
1. Don’t be surprised when your employer withholds taxes from your paychecks. That’s how you pay your taxes when you’re an employee. If you’re self-employed, you may have to pay estimated taxes directly to the IRS on certain dates during the year. This is how our pay-as-you-go tax system works.
2. As a new employee, you’ll need to fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Your employer will use it to figure how much federal income tax to withhold from your pay. The IRS Withholding Calculator tool on IRS.gov can help you fill out the form.
3. Keep in mind that all tip income is taxable. If you get tips, you must keep a daily log so you can report them. You must report $20 or more in cash tips in any one month to your employer. And you must report all of your yearly tips on your tax return.
4. Money you earn doing work for others is taxable. Some work you do may count as self-employment. This can include jobs like baby-sitting and lawn mowing. Keep good records of expenses related to your work. You may be able to deduct (subtract) those costs from your income on your tax return. A deduction may help lower your taxes.
5. If you’re in ROTC, your active duty pay, such as pay you get for summer camp, is taxable. A subsistence allowance you get while in advanced training isn’t taxable.
6. You may not earn enough from your summer job to owe income tax. But your employer usually must withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from your pay. If you’re self-employed, you may have to pay them yourself. They count toward your coverage under the Social Security system.
7. If you’re a newspaper carrier or distributor, special rules apply. If you meet certain conditions, you’re considered self-employed. If you don’t meet those conditions and are under age 18, you are usually exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.
8. You may not earn enough money from your summer job to be required to file a tax return. Even if that’s true, you may still want to file. For example, if your employer withheld income tax from your pay, you’ll have to file a return to get your taxes refunded. You can prepare and e-file your tax return for free using IRS Free File. It’s available exclusively on IRS.gov.
Visit IRS.gov for more about the tax rules for students.
Using the correct filing status is very important when you file your tax return. You need to use the right status because it affects how much you pay in taxes. It may even affect whether you must file a tax return.
When choosing a filing status, keep in mind that your marital status on Dec. 31 is your status for the whole year. If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that will result in the lowest tax.
Note for same-sex married couples. New rules apply to you if you were legally married in a state or foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage. You and your spouse generally must use a married filing status on your 2013 federal tax return. This is true even if you and your spouse now live in a state or foreign country that does not recognize same-sex marriage. See irs.gov and the instructions for your tax return for more information.
Here is a list of the five filing statuses to help you choose:
1. Single. This status normally applies if you aren’t married or are divorced or legally separated under state law.
2. Married Filing Jointly. A married couple can file one tax return together. If your spouse died in 2013, you usually can still file a joint return for that year.
3. Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns instead of one joint return. This status may be to your benefit if it results in less tax. You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax.
4. Head of Household. This status normally applies if you are not married. You also must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Some people choose this status by mistake. Be sure to check all the rules before you file.
5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. If your spouse died during 2011 or 2012 and you have a dependent child, this status may apply. Certain other conditions also apply.
Do you need to file a federal tax return this year? Perhaps. The amount of your income, filing status, age and other factors determine if you must file.