I want to clarify to make sure I understand this correctly.
For the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years, I was a full time student at university. I had full scholarships that paid for my tuition and related fees. I lived at the dorms full time as well and went home for the breaks (winter/summer). I worked about 15 hours a week ($8.25/hr) for some spending money. Therefore, for 2016 and 2017 tax years, I claimed myself as a dependent AND that my parents could claim me if they wanted to (which they didn't).
Starting this summer 2018, I'm living full time in an apartment I'm renting, as well as working two jobs. I don't plan to go home except for holidays (ex: Christmas/Thanksgiving). I'm currently taking classes as well, but I got enough financial aid to cover all tuition and fees. Additionally, for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, I received enough financial aid to cover all tuition and fees. I will be working to pay for rent/utilities, insurance, etc. My question is: can I claim myself as independent for the 2018 tax year OR am I still a dependent because my tuition and expenses are covered by fin aid?
First, understand that weather your parents claim you as a dependent or not, is irrelevant. If they *QUALIFY* to claim you as a dependent, then you can not take the self-exemption on your tax return. Period. Also, if you meet the criteria for them to qualify to claim you, take note that the student's income is not a part of that criteria. The student could earn a million dollars and still qualify to be claimed as a dependent on the parent's tax return.
Therefore, for 2016 and 2017 tax years, I claimed myself as a dependent AND that my parents could claim me if they wanted to (which they didn't).
Physically impossible with the TurboTax program. If you used TurboTax to file your 2016 and 2017 returns, and you selected the option for "I can be claimed on someone else's tax return" (as you should have) then the program will automatically remove your self-exemption. (You still get the standard deduction though)
can I claim myself as independent for the 2018 tax year OR am I still a dependent because my tuition and expenses are covered by fin aid?
Unless there's something you're leaving out, probably not. For example, did you graduate in 2018? Here's a synopsis of where I'm going with this. Basically, it all comes down to support. The support requirement is on the student - not the parents. There is absolutely no requirement what-so-ever for the parents to provide any support. Not one single penny. It's all on the student. Basically, it goes like this:
If the student did not provide more than 50% of the student's support (scholarships, grants, 529 funds, gifts from Aunt Mary, etc. do not count for the student providing their own support) then the parents qualify to claim that student on the parents tax return. The parents will claim all educational credits if they qualify. With some exceptions, the student will not claim any education stuff on the student's tax return.
Now what follows the below is the entire synopsis from IRS Publication 970, translated into plain English so we normal folks can understand it without have a master's degree in tax law.
Colleges work in academic years, while the IRS works in calendar years. So the reality is, it takes you 5 calendar years to get that 4 year degree. With that said:
- Scholarships and grants are claimed/reported as taxable income (initially) in the year they are received. It does not matter what year that scholarship or grant is *for*
- Tuition and other qualified education expenses are reported/claimed in the tax year they are paid. It does not matter what year they pay *for*.
Understand that figuring out who claims the student as a dependent, and determining who claims the education expenses & credits, is two different determinations. It depends on the specific situation as outlined below. After you read it, I have also attached a chart at the bottom. You can click on the chart to enlarge it so you can read it. If it’s still to hard to read on your screen then right-click on the enlarged image and elect to save it to your computer. Then you can double-click the saved image file on your computer to open it, and it will be even easier to read.
Here’s the general rules gisted from IRS Publication 970 at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf Some words are in bold, italicized, or capitalized just for emphasis. This is because correct interpretation by the reader is everything. Take the below contents LITERALLY, and do not try to “read between the lines”. If you do, you’ll interpret it incorrectly and risk reporting things wrong on your taxes. For example, there is a vast difference between “can be claimed” and “must be claimed”. The first one indicates a choice. The second one provides no choice.
Now there are two separate determinations to be made here.
First, scholarships & grants are applied to qualified education expenses. The only qualified expenses for scholarships and grants are tuition, books, and lab fees. that's it. If there is any excess, then it's taxable income. It automatically gets transferred as follows depending on what type of 1040 you’re riling.
1040-EZ excess scholarship income is included on line 1. 1040-A excess scholarship is included on line 7. 1040 Excess scholarhip is included on line 7.
Next, 529/Coverdell funds reported on 1099-Q are applied to qualified education expenses. The qualified expenses for 1099-Q funds are tuition, books, lab fees, AND room & board. That's it. If there are any excess 1099-Q funds they are taxable. The amount is transferred as indicated above with one exception. For the 1040 excess ESA/QTP funds get transferred to line 21 with the annotation “SCH” next to it.
Finally, out of pocket money is applied to qualified education expenses. The only qualified expenses for out of pocket money is tuition, books, and lab fees. Room & board is NOT a qualified expense for out of pocket money.
When you have a 1099-Q it is extremely important that you work through the education section of the program in the order it is designed and intended to be used. If you do not, then there is a high probability that you will not be asked for room & board expenses, and you could therefore be TAXED on your 1099-Q funds.
Finally, if "all" qualified expenses are covered by scholarships, grants, 1099-Q funds and there is ANY of those funds left over, the left over excess is taxable. While the parent can still claim the student as a dependent, it is the student who will report all the education stuff on the student's tax return. That's because the STUDENT pays the taxes on any excess scholarships, grants and 1099-Q funds.