By Paige Kube
“What is tax?”
That’s how Leon LaRosa began the third workshop in the Student Employment Enrichment Program Series, proceeding to clarify some universal misunderstandings and explain the relationship between taxes and the financial aid awarded by Washington College.
Natalie Story, associate director of the Office of Student Aid and federal work-study coordinator, directed this series. She assists students that receive federal work-study awards as part of their need-based financial aid package. She works closely with Human Resources and payroll.
“This year, I really wanted to begin a project that would enhance and enrich the experiences of all student employees here at Washington College. Thus began the Student Employment Enrichment Program Series,” she said.
The first Student Employment Enrichment Program Series event was held in September. It centered around the experiences of a senior who has held a variety of jobs on campus for all four years, in addition to working in Chestertown and having various summer internships.
The second event, in November, focused on the characteristics that supervisors wish to see or to develop in great student employees.
This workshop, entitled “Just the Basics: Federal Income Taxes,” was presented by Leon LaRosa with itigation, EisnerAmper, LLC. He is also assistant professor of sociology at WC and teaches a class on financial fraud.
“It was generous and fortunate that such an engaging expert was willing to volunteer his time and knowledge to the effort,” Story said.
The topic proved to be applicable to students receiving financial aid awards as they embark on the daunting task of completing required tax forms. They may fail to realize that the College does not offer personal tax advice.
Story said, “As a financial aid counselor, I do hear a great deal of confusion from students regarding tax forms, terminology, and filing requirements.”
LaRosa explained the different terminology, including social security number, FICA, unearned income, taxable dividends, and other terms that students who are or have been employed have heard of by now, but that few truly understand.
After covering the basics, LaRosa proceeded to describe the different tax forms students could encounter through current employment, financial aid, or in future careers. As he went through each one, he referred to the packet of the 11 selected tax forms that was distributed at the beginning of the workshop. He described the different aspects of the forms, highlighting the different reasons and conditions requiring someone to complete one form instead of the other.
A large portion of the presentation focused on the forms that “deal with school,” he said.
He continued to speak about the different educational deductions and credits, as well as the taxability of different educational scholarships, grants, awards, and prizes. A prize is not taxable if it is awarded for an outstanding educational, literary, or civic achievement and the prize is awarded without any action or application on a part of the winner and the winner assigns the prize to a government unit or tax-exempt organization. For example, it would be great to win the Sophie Kerr Prize at graduation, but over 25 percent of the $65,000 prize would be taken as taxes.
Regardless of these scary surprises, the session still proved helpful and effective.
“I wanted to attend because tax forms were something I didn’t really know anything about, and sooner rather than later I’ll be on my own and have to deal with them all on my own; it’s better to learn now. I learned that there’s still a lot I need to learn! But this gave me a basic idea of what I need to know and a basic knowledge of the forms and what I am responsible for,” said freshman Melody Bishop.
The Student Employment Enrichment Program is looking forward to upcoming events. During the second full week of April, schools around the country will celebrate National Student Employment Week.
“With the help of the Student Employment Advisory Group, WC will award the first Student Employee of the Year award during National Student Employment Week. Campus supervisors may nominate one outstanding student employee for the award,” said Story.
To be eligible for the award, a student must have worked for the department/supervisor for at least two full semesters and must maintain at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA.
Supervisors have been sent copies of the nomination forms. Nominations will be accepted until Tuesday, Feb. 28. The Student Employee of the Year Award Ceremony will be held on Friday, April 13.