Does a tax return need to be filed for a college student?

Here's a look at what college students need to know for possible tax return filings. (

Q. Do tax returns need to be filed for a 19-year-old full-time college student who earned less than $2,500 in a year? The student was listed as a deduction on the parents' 2016 federal and New Jersey returns. -- Parent

A. We're glad you're asking.

A single independent person does not have to file a federal income tax return for 2017 if they had less than $10,400 in income, said Bernie Kiely, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with Kiely Capital Management in Morristown.

This is the result of one personal exemption in the amount of $4,050 and a standard deduction in the amount of $6,350, he said.

It's a different story if the single person is claimed as a dependent on their parents' tax return, he said. In that case, they lose the right to claim themselves on their own return.

"So the 19-year-old in question would have the $6,350 standard deduction to shelter their income," he said. "New Jersey does not want a taxpayer to file if they have less than $20,000 in income."

Kiely said the 19-year-old should file either a federal or state income tax return if they had any taxes withheld by the payer. They would be eligible to receive a refund of the withheld tax, he said.

"In 2018, the new tax law eliminates all personal exemptions and increases the standard deduction for a single individual to $12,000," he said.

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Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for's weekly e-newsletter.

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Kiely Capital Management offers financial planning and investment advice. Serving Central and Northern New Jersey, Yvonne and Bernard (Bernie) Kiely provide over 25 years of experience offering discretionary asset management, retirement planning and income tax preparation. KCM is registered with the State of New Jersey as a Registered Investment Advisor.


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