I recently received this question from a reader: “I’m 17 and I’m going to be getting my first job. What kind of tax forms do I need? Do I claim myself as a dependent?”

A first job is pretty exciting. You start out feeling a little bit hesitant because you’re not entirely sure what to expect, but you know you’re going to put so much energy, enthusiasm, and joy into your work that you think you’ll do the job better than anyone else ever did it before. And you know what? You probably will.

So, what kind of paperwork will you face on your first job?

1) The Form W-4. This tells your employer how much federal and state tax to withhold from your paycheck. Generally, if you’re working full-time and still live at home, the best way to fill this in is to claim S-0. That means that in box 3 you will select SINGLE, and in box 5 you will write the number zero.

2) The I-9. This is to prove you have a legal right to work in this country. Be sure to bring your Social Security card and your driver’s license—your new employer will want to make photocopies. If you don’t have a driver’s license, bring your most recent school ID card, as long as it has a current photo and a description of you.

3) The benefits package. Take this home and discuss it with your parents, as it contains exciting (and possibly mysterious) information.

  • There may be information in the package about a flexible spending plan. This plan will allow you to set aside money to pay for medical costs you know you will be incurring, such as contact lenses, braces, medication, weight loss programs, or physical therapy. When you know you are going to have to spend the money anyway, these plans allow you to receive part of your wages tax-free to cover the costs.
  • This could be your opportunity to start putting away a little money toward retirement. You think that’s too far away to worry about? It might feel like forever—and who cares? You will at retirement.

At the end of the year, you’ll be filing taxes. Should you claim yourself as a dependent on your first Form 1040? If you’re 17, still living with your folks, and not a full-time student—no. If you’re 18 or older and paying your own way—yes, you should.

Just one bit of advice for your new job: Separate yourself from your cell phone and texts while you’re working. All those friends (real and virtual) can wait until you take breaks or sign out for the day.

Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com , where your tax questions are answered. Eva is the author of several books and ebooks, including the new edition of Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com and tax courses you might enjoy at http://www.cpelink.com/teamtaxmama.

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