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I Don’t Know if I Have to File Taxes Because I Was in School. – Jone

“Dear Jim,

I have always done my taxes my self, and I didn’t know if I had to file my taxes this year or not.

In 2011 I was in school, but I was not working. I was collecting child support for my only income to live on. I received a W-2 from the school and it shows the money that was applied to my tuition plus it shows the scholarship money that was also applied to the tuition. The money is from student loans that I still have to pay back. I was wondering if I have to file taxes and would I have a refund? I have always filed as head of household and I have one child who lives with me.



Thanks for your questions.

Question #1: Do you have a filing requirement? i.e. are you required to file a tax return?

If you have gross taxable income (child support is not taxable) greater than a certain amount, determined by your filing status, you must file a tax return. Your filing requirements for 2011, depending on your filing status, are as follows:

Question #2: Should you file a tax return to take advantage of “refundable credits” or other refunds?

Determining if you qualify for refundable credits requires knowing all of your facts. However, you could qualify for the earned income tax credit and some educational credits depending on your specific circumstances. Some of these credits are refundable. Also, if you worked and had withholding (I am confused on whether you stated you worked??? A W-2 indicates employment, but you may be confusing it with the 1098-T issued for “tuition statement”), you may want to file to get a refund for any “withheld tax”.

See this link for credits that you may qualify for.

I would recommend that you visit an IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) site to determine if you have to file and/or should file. They will prepare and efile your return for free.

You can find a site near you.

The VITA program volunteers are exceptional people that can assist you, without cost.

Thanks Jone. I hope this helps.

Jim Buttonow is one of the resident debt experts here at that helps people for free. Jim is a licensed CPA who spent 19 years with the IRS coordinating large compliance teams of IRS agents and specialized personnel. In the last 5 years, Jim has invented consumer and practitioner software and treatises on how to address many different tax issues. He has also represented many people before the IRS examination, collection, filing, and appeals functions. He currently assists taxpayers on an active pro bono tax practice aimed at serving people in need. He can be reached at

If you have a tax question you’d like to ask just use the online form. I’m happy to help you totally for free.

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About Jim Buttonnow

Jim Buttonnow
Jim Buttonow, CPA/CITP, is cofounder of Beyond415. He has more than 26 years of experience in IRS practice and procedure. Reach Jim at [email protected].

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