How to Fill out Tax Information on a FAFSA

Providing tax information is a critical part of completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your return contains income information that's used to determine the amounts and types of federal loans and grants you might be eligible to receive. You can either enter data from your tax return directly onto a paper or electronic FAFSA application, or use the Internal Revenue Service's Data Retrieval Tool on electronic applications. The IRS tool transfers your tax return items directly to your application. With this method, you won’t have to make manual tax return entries.

Information Please

Get a copy of your tax return and W-2 forms reported on the return. If you are considered a dependent student, you’ll also need your parents' tax return and income documents. You are considered a dependent student if you are under age 24 and do not have dependent children of your own. If you have dependent children and are under age 24, or are over age 24 regardless of whether you are a parent, you are considered an independent student and only need your own tax information to complete the FAFSA.

Begin Step 2 of the application, where you’ll answer questions using your tax return and income information. To answer question 33, look in the upper left corner of your return to determine the 1040 form number you used to file your return. To answer questions 35 through 37, use the line numbers listed on the FAFSA application for the 1040 form number you filed.

Now it's time to provide income information. Even if you didn't file a tax return, you still have to provide information about your income in your answer to question 38. If you worked, you should have received a W-2 from your employer at the end of the year. Your earned income is shown in Box 1 of your W-2. If you filed a return, add the amounts from the line numbers shown on the application, based on the type of 1040 form you filed.

Provide information about tax credits and untaxed income for questions 43 and 44. For these two questions some information is requested from your tax return. However, if you filed a return and claimed education credits or made contributions to retirement or pension plans, you’ll have to report the amounts on your FAFSA. The amounts to enter from line entries on your tax return are shown for these questions.

Provide tax information about your parents in Step 4 of the application. If you are a dependent student and must provide information about your parent’s income, you’ll need your parent’s tax returns and W-2 forms to complete this section. Questions 79 through 92 ask the same questions you answered in the student section, Step 2 of the application. For these questions, you’ll also be given the line numbers from your parent’s return to use when answering, based on the type of form 1040 return your parent’s filed.

Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Get a copy of the tax return you filed.

Verify that enough time has passed since you filed to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If you filed electronically and didn't owe any taxes, the tool is available within two to three weeks after you filed. If you filed electronically, owed taxes and paid the full amount, the tool is available within three to four weeks after you filed. If you filed electronically, owed taxes and didn't pay, then your return will not be processed until May. The tool will be available about three to four weeks after the May processing. If you filed a paper return and didn't owe any tax, the tool will be available about eight to 11 weeks after you filed. If you filed a paper return and owed tax, your return will not be processed until June. In this instance, the tool will not be available until three to four weeks after the June processing.

Click the IRS Data Retrieval Tool button within the online FAFSA application. You will be directed to the retrieval portal on the website.

Login to the IRS portal. You’ll need your name and adjusted gross income (AGI) as shown on the tax return you filed.

Preview the tax return entries that appear. They should match entries shown on your tax return.

Agree to allow your tax information to be transferred to your FAFSA application.


About the Author

With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.