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What Teens Need to Know about Taxes

Last updated March 28, 2022

Whether you had a summer job or are working part-time in high school or college, it’s important to know how to file your taxes (or if you need to file them at all!). Here’s what you need to know about filing your taxes, and where to find assistance in your community.

Do I Need to File My Taxes?

When January 1 comes every year we enter “tax season” as a country. “Tax Day” in the US for 2022 is Monday, April 18. That means between January 1 and April 18, 2022, everyone who earned money in 2021 needs to report it to the government by filing their taxes. Taxes are not only required by law, but the taxes we pay to the government end up funding things like roads, healthcare for elderly Americans, schools, airports, and other essential public services.

If you made below $12,550 as an employee of a company in 2021, you do not need to file your taxes! If you made more than that or were an “independent contractor” - like a Lyft driver or Instacart shopper - you will need to file your taxes. Also, if a parent or caregiver can claim you as “a dependent”, be sure to check with them before filing anything!

What is Up With All the W’s?

In order for the government to collect taxes from every employer and every employee in the country, they’ve come up with standard forms for all of us to use. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to understand, though! Here is a quick breakdown of the most common tax forms:

  • W-2 - This is the form that any employer you had in the previous year will send you to show you the wages you earned and any taxes already taken from your paychecks that year. If you had multiple jobs in the previous year, be sure to collect a W-2 from each employer!
  • W-4 - This is a form that you will complete when you start a new job. It tells the employer how much tax to take out of your paychecks for federal and state taxes. If you expect to make less than $12,550 in the year, you can choose that option on this form and no taxes will be withheld!
  • W-9 - This is a form that you’ll only need to fill out if you are going to be an independent contractor. It is a way to let anyone you work for during the year show the government that they paid you as a contractor.
  • 1099-MISC - This form is like a W-2 but for independent contractors. Anyone that paid you for contract work will send you one of these to show how much money you made. No matter how much you made you will have to file taxes on this! 

What Teens Need to Know About Taxes

Best Free Resources for Tax Help

So you’ve had a job (or jobs!), collected all your documents, and want help filing your taxes by professionals. There are so many free ways to get help tailored to your specific questions and needs! . Here are some key (and free!) resources:

  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - This is the official government department that will process your tax information. Their website isn’t always super easy to read, but they do have a good “Free Tax Return Help” tool to check out.
  • United Way - This national non-profit organization is located in many cities and counties around the country and they are a leader in helping folks file their taxes for free. They offer individual help and often partner with bilingual organizations to support. Check out their free tax help locator here.
  • Public Libraries - Your local library is your best friend! Most library systems around the country are a hub for free tax help. They may have tax experts helping in the library or they may have partner organizations that they can refer you to. Some examples are in Seattle, New York City (which includes support for New Jersey and Connecticut), and Dallas.

We know taxes can be an overwhelming, new thing to encounter when you get a job, so give us a text and we can help you. Just text #Jobs to 33-55-77 and a personalized counselor will get you the resources you need! 

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