Tutorial: Documents Needed to File the FAFSA

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Before starting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), students will need to gather some personal paperwork, tax forms and other financial documentation. These records contain information that is requested on the FAFSA. Filling out the FAFSA is easier and takes less time if these records are gathered before going online or starting the paper form. Please keep in mind that not all families will have or need all of these records.

All financial information must be reported for the previous tax year, which is usually the previous calendar year. For example, to file the 2018-2019 FAFSA, students will need documentation from the 2016 tax year (January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016). Fiscal year filers should use the tax year that overlaps the most with the 2016 calendar year.

Federal income tax returns do not need to be filed before applying for student financial aid. Submit the FAFSA and other aid applications by the published deadline dates, if not sooner, even if this means using estimated income and tax data. If the FAFSA is based on estimated data, all inaccuracies must be corrected after the student and parent(s) have filed their 2016 federal income tax returns. The federal income tax return data on the FAFSA may be updated using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool at www.fafsa.ed.gov.)

To complete the FAFSA, the student will need:

  • The student’s driver’s license (if the student has one)
  • The student’s Alien Registration Card (if the student is not a U.S. citizen but is an eligible non-citizen)

The student and parents (if the student is a dependent student) or the student and spouse (if the student is an independent student and married) will each need:

  • Social Security cards (for the Social Security numbers and legal names)
  • W-2 forms, 1099 forms, records of earned income and records of other taxable income such as unemployment benefits, if available
  • Federal income tax returns for the prior tax year, if completed (IRS Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ or the equivalent foreign income tax return)
  • Records of child support paid, if any
  • Records of untaxed income, if any
  • Records of student aid funds that were included in adjusted gross income (AGI), such as the taxable portion of scholarships and fellowships and AmeriCorps benefits
  • Records of taxable earnings from Federal Work-Study or other need-based work programs
  • Current bank and brokerage account statements as of the date the FAFSA is submitted
  • Current records of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investments

The student and parents will also need a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to sign the FAFSA electronically.

Keep copies of all documents used to complete the FAFSA along with a copy of the FAFSA on the Web summary page and confirmation page (if the FAFSA is submitted online) or a copy of the completed FAFSA (if a print or PDF version of the FAFSA is filed), as well as a copy of the Student Aid Report. These documents may be requested by the college’s financial aid administrator.

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