Tax season not so scary for one student

Lynn Tice

College accounting major helps fellow students do their income taxes

Megan Kohler shows how simple it is to file taxes online. Kohler does her own taxes and recently decided to help her friends do theirs.

Credit: David Irvin

Maryellen Hinchman is the office manager at the University Plaza H&R Block in Kent. Hinchman said she doesn’t see many college students come into the office because their tax returns are usually simple. She does warn though that there are some problems

Credit: David Irvin

For a lot of people, doing their income taxes is not a fun job. But not for Megan Kohler.  She not only files her own taxes, but volunteers to do others.  Kohler is a senior accounting major at Kent State University.  She is also a member of Chi Omega.  Kohler recently let her housemates know that if any of them needed help on their taxes they should come and see her.  She never really thought anyone would ask.

“It started off as more of a joke, as a way for people to be able to pay their membership dues, but then more people took me up on it,” Kohler said.

Tips for doing your own Taxes

Which form to use:

Find out at

Information you may need:

  • W-2 Form(s) (for earnings)
  • 1098 Form (for students with loans)
  • Statement for savings accounts
  • Statement for financial holdings (stocks, mutual funds, etc.)

Software and Online Help

For Help in Kent

H&R Block offers free answers to any questions you may have about filing your taxes. The phone number is (330) 673-1221.

According to IRS data, there were 18.4 million people between the ages of 18 and 24 that filed taxes in the year 2002. Kohler wants to continue to be part of that group and help others to do the same.

Kohler said she knows how confusing doing your taxes for the first time can be and she wanted to help out her friends. People would come to her room and she would figure out their taxes using the IRS online filing service, e-file. Kohler wasn’t acting as a certified tax preparer, she was only helping them along with the process.  She went over the figures with the person, showing them what she did, so they could ask if they have any questions.  She then let them hit the send button. 

Kohler said she loves the new online programs that help people file their income taxes.  But she also says that people need to beware of scams when doing their taxes online.

“Never go to any site that is not sponsored by because there are a whole bunch of crackpot e-filing systems and you don’t want your refund taken,” Kohler said.

Kohler has been doing her own taxes since she declared an accounting major. She says that it’s a good idea for college students to learn how to do their own taxes, instead of just letting their parents do it.

“After we graduate we are going to get thrown into this stuff, you can’t fill out a 1040EZ forever, so it’s probably a good idea to learn how the system works,” she said.

But she also said students need to be careful if they are doing their own taxes, because most college students can still be claimed on their parents’ income taxes. 

Not knowing if your parents have claimed you is probably the number one mistake that students make when filing their taxes, said Maryellen Hinchman, office manger at H&R Block in Kent.

Hinchman said that some students are offended that their parents get to claim them even though they are living on their own.  But she says that’s their right.

“As long as they are under 24 years old and a full-time student, their parents have the right to claim them, whether they choose to or not their parents are entitled to claim them and they’re not entitled to their own personal exemption,” Hinchman said.

Hinchman says people need to be prepared and know the basics whether they do their taxes themselves or have someone else do them.

Common Mistakes and Tips to Make Tax Season a Little Easier

Not knowing if your parents claim you is the number one mistake students make when it comes to filing their taxes, according to Maryellen Hinchman, office manager at H&R Block in Kent.  But there are also other bumps in the road that could hinder a student’s tax return.

Hinchman also says that students confuse earned income credits.  She says that students believe that they didn’t make that much money so they can take the earned income credit.  The credit is for “lower income” people, but the person must be older than 25 or have a child.  A lot of college students don’t fit into that category. 

Another pitfall that students might stumble into is determining where they live.  It sounds really simple, but if you live in one state while attending college and your permanent home is in another state, you may run into problems.  “The qualifications for residency depend on the state,” according to an article at  “In some situations, you could be considered a full-time resident in two places and be required to pay both,” the article said.  Check with each state to see if there is anything you owe.

Megan Kohler, senior accounting major at Kent State University says one mistake students might make is not filing their taxes at all.  If you are single and made under $7,950 for the year, you don’t even have to file a tax return.  But you might want to because if you had federal taxes taken out of your paycheck, you still might be entitled to some refund.  She believes that the average college students’ tax return isn’t that complicated and that they should take advantage of the money they are getting back.

“Most tax stuff for people our age is pretty self-explanatory,” Kohler said.  “It’s not like we’re getting Medicare so it’s pretty obvious what deductions to take,” she said.

But for those who don’t have any easy time putting together a tax return, there are some places you can turn to for help.

Online: is the Internal Revenue Service’s website.  The site has links to any forms you need as well as helpful tips and even phone lines if you have a question that isn’t answered on the site.  The site also has information on how to use “e-file”, the online tax preparer and electronic tax filer.

Software:  There are plenty of computer software programs available if you want to do your taxes yourself, but still want some extra help.  Turbo Tax and Tax Cut are just a few titles available.

On Campus:  The Kent State Library has information in the library and on its website to help students file their taxes.  There are forms and publications available to make doing taxes a bit easier and links to different sites where students can get help.

Also on campus, international students or non-resident aliens can take advantage of tax preparation software.  The program NRAware is used to assist international students in filing their taxes. Ann Gosky, associate director of Campus Life helps with the program.  Students can log onto an interactive website, type in a password and do their taxes

“Students are sent a letter about the program and a password,” Gosky said.  “99 percent of students can use the password and log on at home or in their dorms and do their taxes from there,” she said.

There is also a workshop available where Gosky helps students and walks through the software.  Gosky says that the department doesn’t help students with their taxes.  The students do it all on their own.

In Kent:  Hinchman says students are welcome to call H&R Block with any questions.  She and her staff would be happy to answer any questions. The phone number is (330) 673-1221.

Income tax returns must be in the mail by April 15.