Each taxpayer has a personal exemption, worth $3,900 for 2013. If you can not be claimed
as a dependent, you get your personal exemption. If you can be claimed as a
dependent, then the person claiming you gets your personal exemption.
Each filing status has an associated Standard Deduction. That is a deduction from income that you get without having to keep records to prove.
You tax is figured as follows:
add up all of your income and subtract any adjustments (for a young person, there usually aren't any). The result is called your Adjusted Gross Income.
next your exemptions are subtracted. If you are claimed as a dependent, then your exemption is 0.
next, your standard deduction is subtracted
Taxpayer under 65, not claimed as a dependent
$6.100 for Single
$12,200 for Married Filing Jointly, or Qualifying Widow(er) with dependent child
$8,950 for Head of Household
$6,100 for Married Filing Separately
For over 65 or blind, add $1,200 for each instance or add
$1,500 each instance if single and not a surviving spouse.
If you are claimed as a dependent, then your standard deduction calculation is a bit involved, but for W-2 wages, the maximum amount is $6,100.
Now that your exemption (if any) and standard deduction have been subtracted, what is left is called your Taxable Income.
To find the tax on that amount, you look it up in the IRS Tax Tables
If you qualify for tax credits (there are several but a college student usually wouldn't have any of them) they are subtracted from your tax. Now the amount of tax that was withheld is subtracted from the tax owed. If the tax withheld is less than the tax owed, you have to pay more.
If the tax withheld is more than the tax owed, then you get the difference as a refund. That is the process for Federal tax, the state tax process is similar.
only way that you, or any other taxpayer gets back all of the federal tax
withheld is if their taxable income is zero (or their tax is reduced to zero by
credits). So in your case, if you made less than $6,100, you would get all of
your withholding back. If you made more than $6,100, you would not get it all
In addition, only the Federal Income Tax withheld is refundable. The Social Security tax and Medicare tax withheld is not refundable under any circumstance.
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