April 9, 2004

Students taxed by paperwork concerns

As a rite of passage young Americans eventually encounter, tax-paying students—like all others filing for the April 15 deadline—are confronted with tedious paperwork and endlessly confusing numbers.

For many students currently doing their own taxes, the process includes Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. While the age at which students begin completing their own tax forms varies—some have filed taxes since their early teens, and others have yet to fill out their FAFSAs for the first time—the deadline looms large for many at the University.

"I've never done them before," said Bianca Pullen, a third-year in the College. "I'm very nervous and scared."

Pullen has done her FAFSA forms by herself for the last three years, but has hesitated to do her taxes. She said that the FAFSA "is not that hard, and taxes are supposed to be easy too. I've just been afraid of them. One day I'll do them—hopefully next year." She said she will seek the advice of a friend's mother who works at the accounting firm H&R Block if she needs it.

Most students rely on the assistance of others to do their taxes, namely parents or an accountant. While they filled out their own FAFSA forms, first-years in the College Piotr Korzynski and Keeley Mui had family accountants file their taxes. Korzynski said that the FAFSA was complicated and that it would have been "easier to have the accountant do it," but he did not think he could afford it.

Korzynski said that he would rely on family friends with experience in filing taxes for help, or he would get a book on how to do taxes. "A book is cheaper than an accountant," he said. "You also have to be able to trust your accountant, so a book would get rid of that risk."

Mui went over the taxes with her father after the accountant had finished doing them in order to understand what they were about so that she could fill out her FAFSA form on her own.

"My parents don't help me with the FAFSA at all. I have to do all the calculations myself," Mui said. "It's crucial to understand how the tax forms are set up, the W2s, the schedules, but it's also confusing."

She was frustrated with the lack of help from her parents, because she does not have that much experience and got a debit card just this year. "It's weird to have W2s and to get return checks in the mail from the government. I was surprised by how little I know about how [taxes] happen."

Some students have had more experience completing tax forms. Third-year in the College Amanda Redlich started doing her taxes when she got her first major paycheck at 16. Redlich's father introduced her to a computer program called Turbotext, made by the same company that makes Quicken. "It's not a big deal," she said, citing the program's simplicity. "Don't whine!"

First-year in the College Victoria You did not have any taxes of her own to file, but she has completed her parents' taxes for the last two years. She taught herself how to do them, and has found that they are a lot easier to do the second time around. She does them online through the website

You finds this easier than completing them by hand, she says. "You don't have to go through a booklet, all the directions are online, and there are ‘help' buttons." She said that by doing her parents' taxes, she is getting good practice for the time she will have to do them herself. "They are not nearly as bad as you think they will be," You said.

Like many, first-year in the College Nathan Whitehorn did not do his taxes this year because he did not have an income. He did not do his FAFSA either—his mom did it for him. "I am looking forward with all my heart and soul to doing more useless paperwork," Whitehorn said. "I'm excited to do my civic duty."