Students face the problem of tax illiteracy in their first tax seasons as adults
Millions of Americans rushed to file their taxes before April 15. For many students, filing taxes is a new adventure that they’ll have to embark on for the rest of their lives. Many students don’t have experience with doing taxes and don’t know anything about the filing process or even understand taxes in general. Even adults struggle with questions like “what is a 1040?” or “am I filing joint taxes or separate taxes?” and hire accountants to help them file for them.
“Not much, not going to lie,” says Navreen Randhawa, a fourth-year sociology major, in response to how much she knows about taxes. “Taxes […] if you’re working, you have to pay every year and there is an IRS form that goes out. I know more about taxes in the sense of, like, whether we should raise them or lower them depending on what programs you qualify for.”
Aside from what students know about the reasoning and procedures behind taxes, there are also negative feelings toward taxes that adults express which the younger generation picks up on.
“It’s a b**** to fill out all the forms,” said Daniel Painter, a second-year biochemistry and molecular biology major. Painter continued, listing what he knows about the use of taxes in our economy and government. “I know that it’s extremely paperwork heavy […] lots of bureaucracy, mainly the IRS. [They’re] used by the government to pay for public works, roads, fire and emergency services, military, NASA, fund the government.”
This uncharted territory of filing taxes can be quite daunting for students who have never done it before. It can still be quite stressful for students who have been doing their taxes for many years. It is common for many people to not know they had to fill out taxes until the year they have to do it.
“I started working when I was 15, so I wasn’t aware that I had to file taxes until I was 16, which was when the next tax season was,” Randhawa said.
“I’ve never filled out taxes before; this will be my first year doing it,” Painter said. “I only found out I had to do it a month ago.”
While some high schools educate their students about taxes in general, many high schools do not teach students how to file taxes.
“My parents were going to teach me [how to file taxes],” said Sean Hoffman, a first-year environmental policy analysis and planning major. “I didn’t learn anything about how to do taxes in high school.”
The fact that many students aren’t taught how to do taxes is arguably a flaw in the public education system, as most feel unprepared for the tax season. Even something as simple as knowing what a W-2 form is (the most common form) before doing taxes can alleviate a lot of stress.
“I think there are enough ways to learn about the tax process outside of public education,” Hoffman said, “but it would still be helpful [to learn about it in school].”
Programs like Turbotax or IRS Easy Taxes exist to help people easily file taxes with low stress. Students who just stressfully navigated their first tax form might want to look to tools like these in their next tax season.
Written by: Linh Nguyen –– email@example.com