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Help Your Students Prepare for Tax Season

January 17, 2019

If your students are like many of the rest of us, the thought of filing income taxes can be daunting. What are the most important tax tips to share with your students? A few basics can help them understand what income counts, whether they need to—or should—file, what forms to use, and how to go about filing with a minimum of stress.

Do your students need to file a tax return?

Whether your students need to file a tax return generally depends on their gross income, filing status, and age. If they’re single, under 65,  and claiming themselves as an exemption for the 2018 tax filing year, they must file if their gross income was at least $12,000. Students must also file a tax return if they had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400. If the student can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, and are single, under 65, and not blind, they must file if they meet one of the following criteria.

  • Their unearned income was over $1,050.
  • Their earned income was over $12,000.
  • Their gross income was more than the larger of $1,050 or their earned income (up to $11,650) + $350.

What counts as income?

Gross income is generally defined as all income you receive in the form of money, goods, property, and services that isn’t exempt from tax. Some examples include the following:

  • Income reported by employers on W2 forms
  • Income from work-study programs
  • Business income earned through freelance or entrepreneurial work (e.g., selling t-shirts, designing a website for a fee, etc.)
  • Some education grants, especially those used for purposes other than tuition, such as room and board
  • Any interest from financial institutions

What forms should students use when filing their taxes?

W2: A W2 is the United States federal tax form issued by employers that states how much an employee was paid and the amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks in the previous year. The amount of taxes withheld is based on the withholding status determined by the W-4 form that’s filled out when an employee begins a new job. An employee’s withholding status takes into account their marital status, dependents, and whether or not the employee wishes to have more than the standard amount withheld from each paycheck.

1040: For the 2018 tax year, the IRS has redesigned the 1040 form and eliminated the 1040A and 1040 EZ. All individuals will use the 1040 to file their annual income tax returns. The 1040 may need to be supplemented with new numbered schedules to properly report income for 2018.

1098-E: The 1098-E is a form filed with the IRS that details the amount of interest paid on qualified student loans during the previous year. Students may be able to deduct all or part of the interest paid on qualified student loans, which could reduce the amount they pay in income tax.

How should students file their tax return?

Students have a variety of options available to them when filing their tax return.

In Person: In addition to local accounting firms, there are numerous tax preparation companies that advertise during tax season. For a small fee, students have the opportunity to work with a tax professional who will complete their income tax returns and walk through the process with them. This can be useful for first-time filers, or students with complicated financial situations.

Online: The IRS offers free online tax filing. Many tax preparation companies also offer their services online, and in some cases, it may be offered free of charge. This option is great for students who want to file their own taxes quickly and cheaply.

VITA: For students who want to tackle their income tax returns on their own, there are still some safety nets available to them. Many schools work with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a national organization that offers free tax assistance for simple tax questions and has many branches available on college campuses. If your students have questions about their tax returns, find out if VITA is available near you.

More Information

For additional information, refer to irs.gov.

Make your job easier by reaching out to Nelnet’s School Service Center (SSC).

January 14, 2019

The SSC is a simple, cost-free way to receive quick answers to your financial aid questions. When you call or email the SSC, you will reach a member of our highly experienced team. Those that work in our SSC are well-versed in issues that school financial aid offices face and are prepared to answer your questions regarding:

  • Nelnet-serviced loans (such as account status, address to return funds, and default prevention)
  • FFEL and commercial loans (like loan adds and changes, disbursement adjustments, and demographic changes)
  • Nsight Plus
  • NSLDS
  • NelnetSchoolPortal.com
  • Direct Consolidation
  • Total and Permanent Disability
  • ISIR and SAR comment codes
  • Verification process
  • Fraudulent claims
  • Discharge types
  • Title IV process
  • General student assistance
  • And much more

In addition, the SSC provides expedited assistance to school representatives who call with a borrower on the line, helping to quickly resolve issues or questions you may have during a counseling session.

Write down the SSC’s contact information and keeping it visible at your desk.

Phone: 866.463.5638

Email: SSC@Nelnet.net

Hours: Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

If you call the SSC after hours, you can leave a message and we will get back to you the next business day.

We look forward to continuing to provide you and your students with excellent customer service and making your job easier!

FAQ: What does “N!!” mean at the start of an email subject line?

January 11, 2019

When you see “N!!” at the start of a subject line, it indicates that the message has gone through our automated encryption process.

We encrypt these emails to protect confidential information contained within. Any attachments contained within these messages are safe to open.

If you ever have any questions about communications you receive, we encourage you to contact the School Service Center (866.463.5638 or SSC@nelnet.net).

Latest from FSA: Changes to 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 Verification Requirements

January 10, 2019

FSA recently announced new flexibilities that can be used as part of institutions’ verification procedures. These changes are being incorporated to reduce burden on students and families that have difficulty in obtaining documentation needed to verify their Free Application for Federal Student Aid/Institutional Student Information Record (FAFSA/ISIR) information.

The flexibilities noted by FSA include details on:

  • Income Tax Return
  • Verification of Nonfiling
  • Nontax Filers
  • Extension Filers
  • Additional Documentation Requirements

These flexibilities, which can be seen in FSA’s announcement, are effective as of FSA’s announcement and apply to both the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 FAFSA processing and verification cycles.

Quick Guide to Updating Borrower Demographics and Submitting Documents to Nelnet

November 20, 2018

Keeping your student borrowers’ accounts with Nelnet up to date is very important. Nelnet offers a few options for when you need to submit a deferment or forbearance form or update demographic information for your student borrowers:

  • Upload your document(s) and email them to submitmyforms@nelnet.net. Please include a brief description of what you are requesting on the student’s account.
  • Upload your document(s) and submit them through Nsight Plus, our free online school reporting tool. You will use the ‘Contact Us/Upload Docs’ tab.

If you do not already have an Nsight Plus account, it’s quick and easy to set one up. Just fill out our short, electronic sign-up form.

Of course, you may also contact Nelnet’s School Service Center to update a student borrower’s demographics by calling 866.463.5638 or email ssc@nelnet.net. The School Service Center is available Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern).

Latest from FSA: New NSLDS Enrollment Reporting Guide

November 16, 2018

FSA recently announced the availability of the updated National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) Enrollment Reporting Guide. The guide contains comprehensive, step-by-step instructions for reporting enrollment information to NSLDS. This November 2018 edition of the NSLDS Enrollment Reporting Guide contains a variety of new information, including information about the types of students to be reporting, adding students to your roster, and viewing enrollment data.

To download the new guide, visit FSA’s Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) website.

Visit the FSA Training Conference Resource Center to Get Your Questions Answered

November 15, 2018

Atlanta Cityscape

This year’s FSA Training Conference will provide an excellent opportunity for Financial Aid professionals to learn about the latest federal regulations and legislation through a variety of training topics and breakout sessions. Additionally, conference attendees will have the chance to interact with federal subject matter experts and loan-servicing professionals throughout the week in the conference Resource Center.

Visit the FSA Training Conference Resource Center to ask questions that aren’t covered in breakout sessions and to get one-on-one help with issues specifically related to your school.

The Resource Center will be open during the following times:

Monday, Nov. 26 Closed
Tuesday, Nov. 27 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 28 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 29 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 30 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.

 

We hope to see you there!