FAFSA and Tax Returns

applying for FAFSA without a tax return

The information in this article is up to date through tax year 2020 (taxes filed 2021). 

Tax return information is included on the FAFSA form to help the government gauge your financial situation and determine your need for financial aid. We’ve covered some situations in which you might not have a tax return and how that affects your FAFSA. 

Can I fill out a FAFSA without a tax return?

Yes, you can fill out a FAFSA without a tax return under certain circumstances. But first – it’s important to determine your dependency status for financial aid purposes.  

If you’re considered an independent student, you will provide your financial information (and your spouse’s if you’re married). If you’re a dependent student, you must provide parental information along with your personal information. Keep your dependency status in mind when considering whether the following circumstances apply to you.

  You or your parents are not required to file a tax return

If your income or your parent’s income is below the minimum amount required to file taxes, select Will not file when completing your FAFSA form. However, you will still have to provide some sort of financial documentation for the tax year in question, such as a Form W-2, 1099, or a pay stub.  

You or your parents haven’t filed yet

This has been less common ever since the government began allowing for an older tax return to be used. For instance, your 2018 tax information is required for the 2020-2021 academic year. And the earliest you could submit your FAFSA form for that school year was October 1, 2019. So, you (or your parents) most likely filed 2018 taxes by then unless you filed an extension or simply didn’t file on time.  

If you complete your FAFSA before filing for the tax year in question, you can select Will file on your FAFSA and use your last pay stub and tax return from the previous year to provide estimates for questions about your income (if it’s similar). Once you file, you must update your FAFSA from Will file to Already completed and enter your exact amounts.

 You or your parents filed a foreign tax return 

You can select Foreign tax return for the type of return filed and use the information from that return to complete your FAFSA form. 

Find more information about how FAFSA and financial aid affect your taxes here

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