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This is my first time filing a Schedule C. I worked for 6 months as a consultant from March - August. I have recently heard that I should have filed an approximate payment 4 times last year (probably 2 for me since I only worked half a year). Is this true and is there a penaltyÉ
You may be required to file estimated tax payments in order to avoid a penalty if you are underpaid for the year. Many rules, many exceptions to the penalty, dont fret too much the charge is only equivalent to the current IRS prescribed interest rate -- about 8%.
Try reading the FAQ for more detail on the subject.

Also, I am now a full-time grad student. Can I apply for the $1500 HOPE deduction or only the $1000 Lifetime Learning deductionÉ

HOPE is for first two years of post secondary education ...

You will only be eligible for the LTLC.

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