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.
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 I Need to File? on the California FTB website.
Q: Which form should I use to file my taxes?
- A: For information regarding which form to use to file your Federal taxes, see Which Form on the IRS website or review Which Form Should I Use in Publication 17 on the Forms and Pubs section of the IRS website. To determine which form to use for State tax filing, see Which Form Should I File on the California Franchise Tax Board 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. For State taxes, see the Filing Status Information 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: 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. The Personal Allowances or Withholding Allowances determine how much tax to withhold from the wage payments you receive from UC Merced. Generally, the higher the number of withholding allowances you claim, the less tax is withheld from any payments you receive. The lower the number, the more tax is withheld. UC Merced staff cannot advise you as to how many allowances to select. The UC W-4/DE 4 Form includes instructions and a Personal Allowances Worksheet that should assist you with completing the form (if you are a nonresident alien, please complete UC W-4NR/DE 4). Please see the IRS page on Tax Withholding for detailed information that may assist with your specific situation.
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 my estimated quarterly tax payments?
- 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)