Category Archives: Tax Information

Completing the 2017-18 FAFSA

If you’re completing a FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year, there are some new requirements you should be aware of. One of them is the new FAFSA release date. This form now becomes available on October 1 annually, rather than January 1. This allows you to fill out the FAFSA earlier and possibly learn your financial aid eligibility a little earlier, too.

Another change to the FAFSA allows students and families to complete this form using tax information that should already be completed, eliminating the need to update your tax information on your application once your taxes have been filed. Since the latest FAFSA, released on October 1, requires you to use your 2015 tax information, you can pull out your 2015 return and complete your application at FAFSA.gov now! The sooner you apply, the better!

If you’re unsure when to complete the FAFSA or the correct tax information to be used, check out the chart below. Good luck!

Chart detailing when to submit which FAFSA and what tax year information to use. Visit  https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/resources/2017-18-fafsa-process-changes-text for accessible version.

How to Finish the FAFSA, Steps 3-4: Fill It Out and Sign/Submit

FAFSA Step 3Now that you’ve gathered materials  and created an FSA ID , it’s time to complete and submit the FAFSA at FAFSA.gov.

Applying online is fast, simple and best of all… it’s safe. The online form allows you to rapidly transfer previously filed tax information and has many “helps and hints” along to way to answer any questions that may come to mind. And, you may choose to send your FAFSA results to up to 10 schools that interest you.

FAFSA Step 4Be sure to enter your information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. When finished, you will sign with your FSA ID. Don’t forget to hit “Submit” when you’ve completed the form!

What’s Changing with the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is new and improved and will be ready for you faster than ever! Students and parents now have the opportunity to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as soon as Oct. 1—three months earlier than before! The earlier you apply, the better, as some financial aid options may be exhausted later in the year.

Another update to the FAFSA makes the process even more convenient. Families will now use tax information that they should have already filed. This means families won’t have to update the FAFSA after they file taxes next year. Use the chart below to find out which forms are right for you.

FAFSA Completion Chart

To complete and submit the FAFSA online, students and parents will both need to create an FSA ID (Federal Student Aid ID) at FSAID.ed.gov. This username/password serves as your signature on the FAFSA and student loan applications and allows you to access other federal aid websites. It can be beneficial for families to create their FSA IDs now in order to speed up the FAFSA application process in October. Once the FAFSA is available, it can be completed online at fafsa.ed.gov.

How Do I Enter My Final Tax Figures?

If you used tax estimates on your FAFSA and it’s been three weeks since you filed your taxes with the IRS online, then it’s time to update your FAFSA with your final tax information. Here’s how:

  • Go to fafsa.gov and log in with your FSA ID.
  • Enter your Save Key, if prompted.
  • Click on Financial Information and change your answer from ‘Will file’ an IRS income tax return to ‘Already completed’ your tax return.
  • Answer the questions that follow to see if you qualify to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). If you do, you will be given an option to link to the IRS website and will then transfer your 2015 tax information to your FAFSA.
  • Students and parents may each use the IRS DRT to update their individual tax information
  • Once completed, be sure to enter your FSA ID on the last page as your signature and then click ‘Submit My FAFSA Now’.

You may also choose to enter your actual tax figures manually if the IRS DRT is not an option for you. Once your updated FAFSA has been submitted, the new figures will be sent directly to the schools listed on your application. If your financial aid office requires any additional information, they will contact you directly. If you have questions, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Common FAFSA Corrections and Modifications

Perhaps you’ve had a change in circumstances since you submitted the FAFSA, or you’ve discovered that even with the help of FAFSA.gov’s built-in fact checker your FAFSA contains an error. Here are some of the most common pieces of information to be updated or corrected:

  • Your marital status
  • Your parents’ marital status
  • The death of a parent or sibling
  • Employment status
  • Major medical expenses
  • Social Security numbers
  • Parents’/stepparents’ income
  • Untaxed income
  • Income taxes paid
  • Household size
  • Number of household members in college
  • Real estate and investment net worth

So, what happens if you’ve made a mistake? If necessary, corrections to FAFSA data may be made by:

  • Visiting FAFSA.gov and accessing your data with your FSA ID.
  • Requesting changes through the financial aid office of the school you plan to attend. (you’ll need your Data Release Number, or DRN.)
  • Submitting documentation to the college’s financial aid office.

If you used last year’s tax information as an estimate when filing the FAFSA, it is also required that you make the correction once you’ve filed 2015 taxes.

Who is My Parent on the FAFSA?

Financial aid eligibility can vary depending on whether you’re considered a dependent or independent student. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) requires dependent students to show their parent’s information on the form. Independent students are not required to include it. What if your parents are divorced or separated? What if you live with your grandmother? Whose information should be included?

The Department of Education provides these guidelines to explain who should be counted as a parent. Unless otherwise noted, “parent” means the legal (biological and/or adoptive) parent or stepparent. The rules below apply to legal parents regardless of gender.

    • If your parents are living and legally married to each other, answer the questions about both of them.
    • If your parents are living together and are not married, answer the questions about both of them.
    • If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
    • If your parents are divorced or separated and don’t live together, answer the questions about the parent with whom you lived more during the past 12 months. If you lived the same amount of time with each parent, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent.
    • If your parents are divorced but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Unmarried and both parents living together,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
    • If your parents are separated but live together, you’ll indicate their marital status as “Married or remarried,” and you’ll answer the questions about both of them.
    • If you have a stepparent who is married to the legal parent whose information you’re reporting, you must provide information about that stepparent as well.
    • The following people are not your parents unless they have adopted you: grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.

If you’re still unsure, contact the Federal Student Aid Center at 1.800.4.FED.AID, 1.800-433-3243.

Don’t Make this FAFSA Mistake!

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has never been easier. However, there’s one mistake students and their parents continue to make.

Each year, many families don’t complete the FAFSA because they think they make too much money to qualify for aid. Counting yourself out before even starting is a huge mistake! Even if you think you won’t qualify for aid, you should still submit the FAFSA.

Here’s why:

    • You could be missing out. Billions of financial aid dollars are offered every year. Those funds will be awarded to someone… and that “someone” could be you. But you’ll never know if you don’t apply!
    • There’s no obligation. You’re not required to accept the aid offered to you. You’ll have the option to decline any aid offered, or you may choose to limit how much you borrow.
    • Your school might use the data. Some schools use the data on your FAFSA to award school-specific grants and scholarships. So, beyond federal funding, you could take yourself out of the running for school aid by choosing not to submit the FAFSA.
    • Federal student loans offer options. Even if you know you’ll only qualify for student loans and you’re unsure about borrowing money for school, federal loans could be your best option. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than private or alternative loans, and they offer flexible repayment plans. They’re also a better option than high interest credit cards.

What’s New With You?

As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to start thinking about status changes that could affect your eligibility for financial aid when you renew your FAFSA for the 2016-17 school year.

  • How old are you? If you were a dependent student this year but you were born before January 1, 1993, you’ll be considered an independent student on your next FAFSA. That means you’ll only need to include your own income (and your spouse’s, if you’re married) on the application. You’ll no longer have to report your parents’ income.
  • Has your marital status changed?  If you married or divorced this year, your financial aid eligibility could be affected next year. Dependent students may also be affected if their parents’ marital status changed in 2015. Be sure to discuss this with a financial aid officer at your college.
  • Do you have a dependent child on the way? If so, you may be able to include your future “mini-me” in your household size, which might increase the amount of Pell grant and other need-based aid you’re eligible to receive. In order to include a new dependent on your FAFSA next year, he or she must live with you and receive more than half of his or her support from you through June 30, 2017.

There are many factors that can change your eligibility for federal and state financial aid from year to year. For more details, talk to someone in your financial aid office, or visit studentaid.ed.gov.

My Family Situation Has Changed – Do I Need to Update My FAFSA?

The FAFSA asks you to provide information about your family and their income. What if something has happened that now makes the data you submitted incorrect? You may need to update your FAFSA if any of the following have changed:

  • You got married
  • Your parents got divorced
  • Your parent or sibling died
  • You or your parent lost a job
  • Your family incurred major medical expenses

Other changes, such as sending your FAFSA results to a different college or making revisions to your income tax paid, can be easily corrected online at FAFSA.gov. The items mentioned above, however, should be discussed with your financial aid administrator. Additional documentation may be required before certain questions on your FAFSA can be changed.

If you have questions, talk to your school’s financial aid office. They’re your best resource throughout the entire financial aid process.

I’m a Parent. Do I Need an FSA ID Too?

If your student needs your information for the FAFSA, you’ll need to create an FSA ID separate from your student’s FSA ID. You can create an FSA ID, consisting of a username and password, at FSAID.ed.gov. As a parent, your FSA ID will allow you to electronically retrieve your tax information and sign your student’s FAFSA. If you have more than one child completing the application, you can use the same FSA ID for all applications.

After you’ve created an FSA ID, you can update your information on your student’s FAFSA by choosing the option to “Enter the student’s information” from the FAFSA login page. We recommend you create an FSA ID before accessing your student’s FAFSA to help avoid additional steps in the login process.

To learn more about the FSA ID process visit studentaid.gov/fsaid.