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Don't forget this important document when applying for financial aid

A hypothetical FAFSA admission ticket

If you will be completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the first time soon, there are few things you should know about providing income information, including the need to have 2016 income tax returns with you when you complete the form.

Here are some insights into providing income information on the FAFSA:

  • There's a great tool within the FAFSA that will import your income information directly from the IRS. This tool, known as the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), will be available when the 2018-19 FAFSA becomes available on Oct. 1, 2017. Not only does this save a lot of time, but it also reduces the chances that your information will need to be verified later by the school or college you plan to attend.
  • When the data comes from the IRS, you will not be able to see the amounts. The FAFSA will only reflect that you imported data using the IRS DRT. Don't worry, your school financial aid office will get accurate information.
  • Even though your income will be imported directly from the IRS, you may be asked some additional questions depending on how you or your parents filed taxes. Have a copy of your 2016 income tax return available so you can answer those questions correctly.
  • Your 2016 income (and or your parents' income) will be used in determining your financial aid eligibility for the 2018-19 academic year. If you or your family has experienced significant changes to income in 2017 which could affect your ability to pay for your education, you may want to contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend.
  • The income information will be used by the U.S. Department of Education to help determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), that is the amount your family should be able to contribute to your education.