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My Villain Origin Story: Filing My Taxes for the First Time

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

Screaming, crying, throwing up

The day was Monday, 18th of April, 2022. I was trudging through the car park of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue at 10 am with snow pelting me. The treacherous walk to the front of the door took me 5 minutes, and I opened the door with a sense of despair and sadness. 

I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me start from the beginning. My name is Nadya and I am a first-time tax filer this year. Unfortunately, as an international student, I didn’t even know I had to file taxes, nor did I know when tax season was. I’ve heard about filing taxes and the absolute insanity that comes with it (specifically that episode of 2 Broke Girls where Max finally files her taxes for the first time) but I didn’t actually think I was going to have to go through that. In the school’s defense, they did send me a couple of emails about it, which I immediately marked as spam. Sue me (actually don’t, I have no money after this tax season, but more explained later).

So when my friend Gaby told me that she just finished filing her taxes with her Dad when I met her for work the week before tax day, I casually mentioned that I didn’t need to file my taxes because of my visa status. A quick Google search proved me wrong, and I started scrambling to look for all my documents while Gaby tried to help me the best she could. Spoiler: Two 20-year-olds trying to file a hopeless girl’s taxes was a recipe for disaster. When she left in the evening, I was as confused as I was at the start of the day. 

I know all of you are going to jump at me and say just use TurboTax, it’s so easy. Okay, I did try, and TurboTax isn’t available for international students. I had to use a different software which was longer, more tedious, and definitely caused me to shed a few tears. 

I texted some of my international student friends who were as confused as me, but after a couple of YouTube videos and a quick cry session, I managed to collect all the documentation I needed to fill the forms required. And after that came the news that I also had to file state taxes. Cue more tears (I know, you’re probably concerned about the amount of crying in this article, I promise I have somewhat recovered from this incident). 

Now you would think that tax season is also a happy time because you get money back. Some of my friends rejoiced over getting a refund of hundreds of dollars. Not me. Instead, I ended up owing the state $160 and getting a mere $30 refund from my federal taxes. So yes, I did end up losing money over this, and I’m still wondering if it was worth it. 

Worst of all, because I didn’t have a social security number or any kind of tax identification number, I had to pay the state in person with cash. Thus, on the dreary Monday morning, I took an Uber to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue with cash stuffed in my pocket, ready to be done with this whole debacle. 

So what did I learn from this whole experience? First, even international students have to file a tax return. So if you’re an international student, please do figure out your tax returns before the deadline. Second, prepare your tax returns early. The stress mostly came from the rush of having to submit and send off my taxes in time. And third, it did make me feel so much more like an adult when I finished submitting my taxes, and that feeling made the experience semi-worth it. 

Nadya Hayasi

Wisconsin '23

Nadya is a senior in UW-Madison studying History and Political Science, with certificates in Southeast Asian Studies and Public Policy. Outside of Her Campus, she spends her time going out with friends, napping, and justifying why taking the bus up Bascom Hill is much better than climbing it every day at 9am.