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Web site focuses on simplifying tax filing

By Jennifer Amsler
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
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As tax season approaches, students might find themselves in comfortable territory with a new Web site geared toward the college-aged demographic filing their taxes.

The makers of TurboTax, a product of Intuit Corporation that aids people with filing their taxes online, created to give students a quick way to file taxes and a quicker way to receive a refund.

"They've made a complicated thing, like filing your taxes, easier," said Vicky Hammond, a public relations representative for TurboTax.

Julie Miller, TurboTax spokeswoman, said students can file their taxes for $5.95 and the site "holds your hand" through the process, eliminating tax jargon that most 18- to 24-year-olds find overwhelming.

"It is designed to get you from start to finish as quickly as possible," Miller said.

Miller said the process takes about 30 minutes for students because most are single, do not own homes or do not have a lot of deductions to file.

In addition, the Web site submits the necessary forms to the Internal Revenue Service within 24 to 48 hours, and students can receive refunds electronically in seven to 10 days as opposed to six to eight weeks if done by hand, Miller said.

Ninety-one percent of young tax-filers earn an average refund of $939 but are more likely than other age groups to not file at all, Miller said.

Lillian Mills, an accounting associate professor, said many students are intimidated by taxes, but educated people should not have a problem doing it themselves, with or without a Web site.

Mills said filing taxes is part of becoming an adult and is similar to learning how to buy a car or committing to a lease.

"They're all steps of learning to be financially independent," she said.

Mills said she recommends students learn from the person who did their taxes in the past.

Noah Gilbert, an optical science and engineering sophomore, said he sits down with his parents and they do their taxes together.

"I usually do what I can by myself," Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he has volunteered as an administrative assistant and is familiar with tax documents. Filing taxes is not intimidating if they are done right and not put off until April, he said.

Mills said some students' source of income is from earning tips, something people commonly fail to report.

"The biggest challenge to students is having the integrity to report their cash income to the IRS," Mills said. "The IRS doesn't audit many people, so the odds of getting caught are low."

Mills said scholarships, unless used specifically for tuition and books, are taxable.

Christina Kwong, a molecular and cellular biology freshman, said no one told her that scholarships had to be claimed on tax forms and is worried she will have to pay a lot.

"I didn't know until I talked to a friend who had a bunch of scholarships," she said.

Kwong said her mom takes care of her taxes and uses TurboTax to get the job done quickly.

Kwong said she will probably have to start filing for taxes by herself soon and she said she hopes it will not be too time consuming and will return a hefty refund.

"There has to be a balance," Kwong said. "I don't want to spend too much time but I know you can save a lot of money if you read through all of the deductions."

Hammond said that when TurboTax created the site in January, a research team surveyed 300 students from ages 18 to 24 and their feedback helped make understandable for first-time tax filers.

Miller said feedback from students has been that the site is easy to use, it does not give unneeded information, and the refunds come back to them quickly.

Students who use can take advantage of the discounts on laptops, electronics and up to $200 off travel packages, Miller said.

The last day to file taxes is April 15.

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