Issue with filing my Taxes

Last year, taxes were a headache. It was the first time that I’d ever tried to do them on my own. Needless to say, that really wasn’t that big of a deal. It was as easy as plugging a few numbers into where I was told to (my taxes weren’t overly complicated last year, I was a graduate student with an on-campus job). Months earlier, we’d decided on me finally filing as independent: I paid for almost all of my needs, and I was 25 years old.

Turns out my step dad didn’t hear about this agreement. My mom was ill last year, and so he was in charge of doing their taxes… and accidentally listed me as a dependent. It wasn’t his fault; Mom hadn’t told him, I didn’t think so, but this started a complicated process that I will thankfully never have to go through again.

My return got shot back to me. “There are mistakes on your tax return,” the email said. How could I have made a mistake when my return had been so simple? So, I went back through it, double checked some things, and sent it right back. Once again, the tax return bounced right back. I called my step dad, wondering what in the world was going on.

“Not sure.” He said. “I claimed you on your mother’s form…”

I groaned. That was the issue. I had been trying to file myself as an independent taxpayer, whereas the filing service noticed that I’d already been claimed as a dependent by my mom. This lead into a 10 minute conversation with my step dad about what exactly we were supposed to do about this. We talked to a friend that knew about taxes, and they said we had two options.

-          Just to file myself as a dependent for one more year and make sure that the following year the same mistake doesn’t happen again.

-          Go through this big long process to redo my mom’s taxes then redo mine.

Honestly, it wasn’t worth the hassle to do the second one. My step dad paid me the part of what I didn’t get because of his mistake. But that goes to show you: make sure you talk to everyone that may be involved in your tax process. Or it could end up being a huge headache.

What determines whether you’re a dependent or independent?

-          Dependents have half of their living expenses paid by the person they’re a dependent to.  When this all happened, I was kind of on the line (at about 48%). So we were fine making the case that I was still a dependent.

-          You are 24 or younger, disabled, or a parent being taken care of by a child. (I was 24 for the tax season in question, just 25 when this all happened).

This year, I don’t qualify for that in any sense, so it’s not a question. But make sure, before you automatically list one or the other, that you fit the criteria… and that other people involved aren’t claiming you. Rough lesson learned, but at least it was learned.

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