Do I Need a Tax Return Transcript For FAFSA?

FT Contributor
A document labeled "FAFSA" sits upon a table alongside a pen and some books.
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A tax return transcript is a record of the past tax returns you filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You may be required to provide your tax transcripts to a financial institution when applying for a loan, or if you’re a student completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

What Is a FAFSA?

The FAFSA is a form that must be completed by a current or prospective college student in the U.S. to determine eligibility for financial aid. Filling out the FAFSA is the first step in figuring out if you qualify for any federal government financial assistance for your college tuition and expenses.

Why Does Financial Aid Need My Tax Transcript?

Since the FAFSA is used to determine your need for financial aid, your financial situation must be analyzed first. Whether you are a student requesting financial aid or the parent of a student, the form asks for specific information from your tax returns, including the income you earned last year.

This information is used to analyze you and your family’s income and finances to determine if you’re eligible for aid as well as to calculate the amount of aid you qualify to receive. The IRS confirms that it’s common practice for many families to need to request tax transcripts so they can provide correct tax return figures on the FAFSA. If you or your family didn’t file a tax return last year, you won’t be able to retrieve this information from the IRS and the school may require you to validate your income in another way.

How Will This Affect My Financial Aid Award?        

The income you and your family earned last year can have a direct affect on the amount of financial aid you qualify for, if you’re eligible for any financial aid at all. If your income increased last year, the amount of aid you qualify for this year may decrease. Or, if your tax return shows a decrease in income, your financial aid eligibility may increase.

What If I Don’t Have My Tax Transcript?

If you’ve never filed taxes or your parents have never filed taxes, you’ll need to contact your school’s financial aid department to ask about the procedure. Information on your last year’s tax return is generally used in the FAFSA to determine your financial aid eligibility. Therefore, without any tax return history, the school may need to use other information to determine whether or not you qualify for aid. The policy for completing the FAFSA with no tax return information can vary by school.

How to Request a Transcript

There are a few methods you can choose from to request a tax transcript. When you visit the IRS website, you can determine whether you’d like to make your request online, by mail, or by phone.

Request Online

Requesting a tax transcript online with the IRS is the fastest and most convenient way to retrieve your tax information. To complete the request, you must:

  • Click “Get transcript online.”
  • Sign in or create an online account with the IRS.
  • Verify the tax transcripts you need to view.
  • Download and save and/or print your tax transcripts.

Request by Mail

To request your tax transcript by mail, you’ll still need to make your initial request online. You can complete this process by:

  • Clicking on “Get transcript by mail.”
  • Completing the form with the information requested, then clicking “Continue.”
  • Identifying the tax transcripts you need.
  • Verifying your mailing address.

Your tax transcripts are sent to you at the mailing address on file with the IRS in five to 10 calendar days.

Request by Phone

If you prefer, you can request your tax transcript by phone. To complete the request, you’ll need to:

  • Call the IRS tax transcript automated phone line at 800-908-9946.
  • Provide information to verify your identity.
  • Select the tax transcripts you need.
  • Receive your tax transcripts by mail in five to 10 calendar days.

What Information Do I Need to Request It?

The information you’ll need to provide to the IRS when requesting your tax transcript depends on the method you use to make the request. However, in most cases, you’ll need to provide your:

  • Social Security number.
  • Date of birth.
  • Filing status.
  • Mailing address.
  • Email address, if available.
  • Mobile phone number.

If you’re considered a dependent student, the FAFSA may request information on your parent’s tax returns. You may not be able to request tax transcripts from the IRS for your parents without their consent and assistance. You’ll need to consult with your parents to get their tax return information.

If it’s not possible to obtain tax return information for your parents, you may be able to choose “Special Circumstances” when filing your FAFSA. If you qualify for a special circumstance, your financial aid eligibility may be determined without providing your parents’ tax return information. However, if you’re not eligible for a special circumstance, your FAFSA may not be processed until this information is provided.

Depending on the college you attend, you may be required to provide you or your parents’ tax return information on the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for financial aid. By requesting tax transcripts from the IRS, you can provide accurate information on your FAFSA, and your eligibility and the amount of aid you qualify for can easily be determined.

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