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Tax Tips for Students with a Summer Job

Many students hold a summer job during their time off from school. Here are some tax issues that should be considered when working a summer job.

Completing Form W-4 When Starting a New Job – This form is used by employers to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from your paycheck. Taxpayers with multiple summer jobs will want to make sure that all of their employers are withholding an adequate amount of taxes to cover their total income tax liability. Generally, a student who is claimed as a dependent of another with income only from summer and part-time employment can earn as much as $5,800 (the standard deduction amount) without being liable for income tax. However, if the student has other investment income, the tax determination becomes more complicated. This is because he or she is a dependent of another and subject to special rules.

Tips – For example, if the student works as a waiter or a camp counselor, he or she may receive tips as part of his or her summer income. All tip income received is taxable income and is therefore subject to federal income tax. Employees are required to report tips of $20 or more received while working with any one employer in any given month. The reporting should be made in writing to the employer by the tenth day of the month following the receipt of tips. The employer withholds FICA (Social Security and health insurance) and income taxes on these reported tips and then includes the tips and wages on the employee’s W-2. The IRS provides Form 4070A for keeping track of tips.

Cash Jobs – Many students do odd jobs over the summer and are paid in cash. Just because it is paid in cash does not mean that it is tax-free. Unfortunately, the income is taxable and may be subject to self-employment taxes (see below). These earnings include income from odd jobs like babysitting and lawn mowing.

Self-Employment Tax – When an individual works for an employer, the employer withholds FICA (Social Security taxes) and Medicare taxes from his or her pay, matches the amount dollar for dollar, and remits the combined amount to the government. When someone is self-employed, he or she is required to pay the combined employee and employer amounts on their own (referred to as self-employment tax) if the net earnings is $400 or more. This tax pays for his or her benefits under the Social Security system. Even if he or she is not liable for income tax, this 13.3% tax may apply.

Classification as an Independent Contractor – It does not happen frequently, but some employers will try to avoid paying certain payroll taxes by treating the student employee as an independent contractor. You can tell this is the case if the student receives his or her pay without any income tax or social security withholding, leaving the student holding the bag to pay the 13.3% self-employment tax and income tax liability when he or she file returns the next year after receiving a 1099-MISC instead of a W-2. If this is the case, be prepared and save some of the income to pay the taxes.

ROTC Students – Subsistence allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay – such as pay received during summer advanced camp – is taxable.

Newspaper Carrier or Distributor – Special rules apply to services performed as a newspaper carrier or distributor. An individual is a direct seller and treated as self-employed for federal tax purposes if he or she meets the following conditions:

  • They are in the business of delivering newspapers; 
  • All of their pay for these services directly relates to sales rather than to the number of hours worked; and
  • They perform the delivery services under a written contract which states that they will not be treated as an employee for federal tax purposes.

Newspaper Carriers or Distributors Under Age 18 – Generally, newspaper carriers or distributors under age 18 are not subject to self-employment tax.

Please call our office if you are the student or parent and have additional questions.

  • 9 Jun, 2011
  • webmaster

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