Free tax filing available to students

Beware April 15, 2010 — the Taxman cometh.

As the deadline for Americans filing their tax returns approaches, there are options for those college students who feel helpless at the thought of filing their own taxes. One option is the Free File Alliance, a group of tax software companies partnered with the Internal Revenue Service that allows most Americans to file its taxes for free online.

Tim Hugo, the executive director of the Free File Alliance, said any American who made less than $57,000 last year is eligible to use the service.

Hugo said in a press release that the Free File Alliance makes taxes “quick, easy and secure” for 70 percent of American taxpayers. The alliance allows participants to receive refunds in as little as 10 days with direct deposit.

Jim Trebby, professor of accounting in the College of Business Administration, said students should be able to file their taxes in less than two hours.

“Filing online will allow students to get any refund faster and directly deposited into their checking or savings account,” Trebby said in an e-mail to the Tribune.

John Ryan, a personal accountant in Chicago, said students should make sure they have their W-2 forms and bank accounts ready before starting to do their taxes online.

“Filing a basic tax return is pretty self explanatory,” Ryan said. “You just have to have all your documents all together.”

Ryan added that online tax services guide users through the process of filing a tax return and alert their clients to any missing information. “Just make sure to do it on time,” he said.

The IRS may choose to fine them or add interest on payments for students who forget to file their taxes in time, Ryan said.

“Even if you do not have the money to pay the IRS whatever you owe in taxes, you should still file a return,” Ryan said. “The IRS will send you a bill and you can work out an installment plan.”

Trebby said there is no excuse for individuals who “forget” to file their taxes by April 15. Those that do should file their return as soon as possible, he said.

Almost all college students are eligible to use the Free File program, which can be accessed at

Marquette students’ experiences using online tax services vary.

Gretchen Mitchell, a junior in the College of Nursing, said she has used Turbo Tax, one of the participants in the Free File program, to file her taxes the last three years.

“It was a really easy process,” Mitchell said. “All I did was follow the instructions and I was done in 20 minutes.”

Shannandoah Ledden, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, said filing his taxes was not as simple as he assumed it would be.  He used a program from the alliance but his software did not recognize his tax forms, and he had to ask for help.

“Everyone always says how easy it is filing your taxes,” Ledden said. “But for whatever reason, the software didn’t work for me. I had to get my mom to fix it for me.”