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If I was a student in the US, do I need to file my personal tax? What form would I file? What is the personal tax due date? What software application is recommended? Should I go see a CPA? I have nothing but my tuition, rent, food and local transportation. I'm single. Please let me know if there's anything else I need to do.

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    Will you be claimed as a dependent on your parents' or someone else's return? Jan 26 '16 at 16:14
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    Did you have income? If so did they withhold state or Federal income taxes? Did you have a scholarship? Are you a citizen of the United States, or are you on a student visa? Jan 26 '16 at 16:20
  • If you do have a scholarship, note that any excess after tuition/fees/textbooks is taxable.
    – Dan B.
    Jan 27 '16 at 4:30
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In the U.S., Form 1040 is known as the tax return. This is the form that is filed annually to calculate your tax due for the year, and you either claim a refund if you have overpaid your taxes or send in a payment if you have underpaid. The form is generally due on April 15 each year, but this year the due date is April 18, 2016.

When it comes to filing your taxes, there are two questions you need to ask yourself: "Am I required to file?" and "Should I file?"

Am I required to file?

The 1040 instructions has a section called "Do I have to file?" with several charts that determine if you are legally required to file. It depends on your status and your gross income. If you are single, under 65, and not a dependent on someone else's return, you are not required to file if your 2015 income was less than $10,300. If you will be claimed as a dependent on someone else's return, however, you must file if your earned income (from work) was over $6300, or your unearned income (from investments) was over $1050, or your gross (total) income was more than the larger of either $1050 or your earned income + $350. See the instructions for more details.

Should I file?

Even if you find that you are not required to file, it may be beneficial to you to file anyway. There are two main reasons you might do this:

  1. If you have had income where tax has been taken out, you may have overpaid the tax. Filing the tax return will allow you to get a refund of the amount that you overpaid.

  2. As a student, you may be eligible for student tax credits that can get you a refund even if you did not pay any tax during the year.

How to file

For low income tax payers, the IRS has a program called Free File that provides free filing software options.

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  • Thank you so much!! one more quick note, looks like I need to file form 1040NR - really appreciate all the help. I let out the part where I'm a not from the US =/ Much appreciated!!
    – high110
    Jan 26 '16 at 18:06
  • @high110 You're welcome. Remember that, depending on which state you reside in, you might need to file a state tax return as well. Jan 26 '16 at 18:08
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    @high110 When you say you're not from the US, do you mean that you are not a citizen of the US? Do you have any income in the United States?
    – Daniel
    Jan 26 '16 at 18:26
  • Thank you Ben! I'm Canadian - so I wasn't born in the US.
    – high110
    Jan 26 '16 at 21:48
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    @high110 Some non-resident aliens (F-1 and J-1 students) are required to file with the IRS regardless of income: read the instructions with form 1040NR and form 8843.
    – Gaurav
    Jan 27 '16 at 6:49
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Should I go see a CPA?

Not unless you are filing paperwork for a corporation. A CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is a certification required to file certain paperwork for a corporation. In any other situation, you don't need a CPA and can just use a regular accountant.

You could conceivably go to a tax accountant, but unless you are doing something complicated (like your own business) or are rich enough that everything is complicated, you should not need to do so.

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