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How do I file a FAFSA Without a Tax Return?

How do I file a FAFSA Without a Tax Return?

You can file a FAFSA, also known as a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, with no filing fee in certain government-recognized situations. We explain how you can still complete and file your FAFSA and request help without filing taxes for yourself or your parents.

The purpose of providing information about the FAFSA tax return is to help the government understand your financial situation to determine your need for assistance. However, there may be reasons why you do not have access to required tax returns or why you do not have a tax return.

First, let's look at the tax information you might need to complete the FAFSA. If you, the student, are dependent on your parents, you will need information from your parents' tax returns. If you have personal income, you may need to file a tax return and use this information in your application.


FAFSA Tax Return Requirements

First, let's look at the FAFSA tax reporting requirements and the tax information you may need to fill out.

If you, the student, are dependent on your parents, you will need information from your parents' tax returns. If you have personal income, you may need to file a tax return and use this information in your application. (Note: being dependent means something specific for taxes. Find out if your parents can claim a college student to be dependent on a student.)

Don't worry about not getting the actual return. The next section explains how to apply for a FAFSA without a tax return.

Below is the type of tax reporting information required by the FAFSA.

  • Adjusted gross income for this year

  • Education credits received, alimony

  • Filing status (for you / your parents)

  • Income from wages, money, savings account amounts

  • Income tax payable

  • Non-taxable income for this year (for example, non-taxable interest)

  • Social Security Number: Do not enter an ITIN in the SSN box

  • Student aid (e.g., taxable scholarships/grants and training credits)

  • The type of tax form you filled out (for example, Form 1040)


How to Apply for FAFSA Without a Tax Return

You are certainly not alone if you want to complete the FAFSA without a tax return. It is a common concern. Some wonder how they can complete the FAFSA without income or if they only have to file taxes just for FAFSA.

How you handle the non-return issue will be different depending on your personal situation. We describe some situations below.


Unable to locate your return: You can access your return through your tax preparer or the IRS Get Transcript tool. 


You have not filed your tax return: in the past, the dates the FAFSA was available and the specific year of tax return information made it difficult for anyone trying to get a claim early. Fortunately, in 2015 the government made changes to the process that allowed for an earlier filing date and allowed the use of an older tax return.


Which tax return do I need for FAFSA 2021?

For FAFSA 2021, you will use the 2019 tax return. Under the new program, most taxpayers will apply before the application period on October 1st of each year. The deadline for extending taxes is usually October 15th, so if you requested an extension to file your taxes, you could file at any time between the April 15th deadline and October 15th extended deadline.

If you need the full period of extension to complete your taxes, you may not have your tax filing information in time to submit your FAFSA in advance.

If so, you can indicate "Will file" on the form and use a payment slip from late December and the previous year's tax return to provide estimates for your questions about your income if any. 

After filing your returns, you must update the FAFSA form "Will file" to "Already Completed" and enter the final values.


You and/or your parents/guardians are not required to file a return: Those with little or low income have asked if they can pay zero income tax ($0) and still file a FAFSA. If you or your parent's income is below the minimum tax return value, you can choose the "Will, not file" option when completing the FAFSA. Nevertheless, you will need to provide any W-2 checks, 1099s, or final payments received for that year.


Your parents are not US citizens and do not live in the United States: If your parents do not live in the United States, you can choose "Foreign Country" in response to a question about your legal residency status. You can also select "Foreign tax return" in response to a question about the type of tax return they filed.


FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW JAMES FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC. CAN BEST HELP YOU WITH YOUR TAX FILING NEEDS, PLEASE CLICK THE BLUE TAB ON THIS PAGE.


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