Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I received tax forms from UC Merced but I have never filed taxes before and I'm not sure where to start. Are there resources available to help me understand the tax process?
- A: A good starting point for finding information about filing your Federal taxes is the Filing Your Taxes page on the IRS website. For State taxes, see Filing Information on the California FTB website. See the next Q&A below for additional resources.
Q: I need help with preparing my tax returns. Who should I contact?
- A: You should consult a professional tax advisor for assistance. A local Certified Public Accountant can help you, or you can search online for a local tax preparation company. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help for qualifying taxpayers. To determine whether you qualify and where VITA operates in Merced, please see the IRS Free Tax Return Preparation on the IRS website. If you are a nonresident alien, you can use GLACIER Tax Prep for free to prepare your federal return. For more information, please visit the GLACIER Tax Prep website. Please note that Tax Services staff are prohibited from giving individual income tax advice on personal income tax issues.
- Per UC Policy and State of California laws, UC Merced employees (including the UC Merced’s Tax Services Department) cannot complete, prepare, advise, or review personal income tax filings or tax matters. Individuals are solely responsible for the proper completion of their tax filings, not the University.
Q: Am I required to file a tax return?
A: The IRS has a free online interview tool titled “Do I Need to File a Tax Return”, found on the Filing Your Taxes page on the IRS Website. If you are a nonresident alien, see IRS Publication 519 on the Forms and Pubs section of the IRS website for information on nonresident alien filing requirements. For State filing requirements, see Do You Need to File? on the California FTB website.
Q: How do I determine my tax filing status?
- A: For assistance with determining your Federal filing status, the IRS has a free online interview tool titled “What is My Filing Status”, found on the IRS Website or review Which Form Should I Use in Publication 17 on the Forms and Pubs section of the IRS website. For State taxes, see the What form you should file page on the California Franchise Tax Board website.
Q: Where do I learn more about credits and deductions?
- A: A good starting point is the Credits and Deductions page on the IRS website.
Q: How can I determine whether I can claim someone as a dependent for tax purposes?
A: The IRS has resources that can help you determine who may qualify as your dependent. The IRS has a free online interview tool titled “Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?” found on the IRS Website. For additional information, please see the Exemptions for Dependents section in IRS Publication 501 on the Forms and Pubs section of the IRS website.
Q: Who qualifies as a dependent?
- A: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publication 501 defines a dependent for tax purposes as a qualifying child or qualifying relative. High school seniors, college students, and adult children living at home who do not provide more than half of their own support (parents or others pay expenses, including medical costs), are a dependent for tax purposes so long as the other criteria above apply as noted in IRS Publication 501. Under current Federal tax laws, a child under the age of 19 at the end of the year, who lives with their parent(s) for more than half of the year and has not provided more than half of his or her own support for the year, qualifies as your dependent, so long as he or she doesn’t file a joint return for the year. For example, a full-time student under the age of 24 at the end of the year is also a dependent for tax purposes to a parent or another person, even if they live mostly at college—if they provide more than half of the full-time student’s support and the student is not married and filing a joint return.
Q: I am a parent of a UC Merced student. Is there an age limit on claiming my child as a dependent or qualifying child on my tax returns?
- A: As noted on the IRS’s FAQ website, to claim your child as your dependent, your child must meet either the qualifying child test or the qualifying relative test and additional tests: To meet the qualifying child test, your child must be younger than you and either younger than 19 years old or be a "student" younger than 24 years old as of the end of the calendar year. There's no age limit if your child is "permanently and totally disabled" or meets the qualifying relative test.
Q: I don't understand how to complete my UC W-4 Form. What should I do?
- A: The purpose of the W-4 Form is to determine how much tax should be withheld from your employment income. For additional information, please visit the IRS page FAQs on the 2020 Form W-4. To update your UC W-4, log into UCPath online. UC Merced staff cannot advise you on how to complete this form.
Q: Is my scholarship/fellowship taxable?
- A: In general, if you are a degree candidate (undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in a degree program at UC Merced), the portion of your fellowship used to pay for tuition, fees, and related required course expenses (required of all students) is excludable from your gross income (not considered taxable). For more information on tax free fellowships, please see the Tax Free Scholarship and Fellowship Grants section of IRS Publication 970 on the Forms and Pubs section of the IRS website. Some fellowships are considered taxable. If your fellowship is nonexcludable (not used to pay for tuition, fees, and related required course expenses), your fellowship may be considered taxable. Please keep in mind that U.S. citizens and residents for tax purposes (permanent resident, refugee, or asylee) do not have Federal or State taxes withheld from their nonexcludable fellowship payments from the University. And, the University is not required to report this income to Federal and State tax agencies. The University also does not issue a W-2 equivalent to students for reporting nonexcludable fellowship income (though it is reported on your 1098-T Form). If you are a U.S. citizen or resident for tax purposes, you may be required to make estimated quarterly tax payments directly to the IRS or California Franchise Tax Board on your graduate fellowship payments. See below for additional information on calculating estimated quarterly tax payments. For more information on taxable fellowships, please see the Taxable Scholarship and Fellowship Grants section of Publication 970 on the Forms and Pubs section of the IRS website.
Q: I do not have taxes withheld from my graduate fellowship and I believe I will owe taxes. How do I calculate if estimated quarterly tax payments are needed?
- A: See the following resources to help you determine whether you will need to make these estimated payments:
- Federal Taxes:
- California State Taxes:
- California Estimated Tax Payments
- Form 540-ES (click link above for this year's Form)
- Form 540-ES Instructions (see Worksheet for calcuation steps; click link above for this year's Instructions)