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    How to Fill Out the FAFSA if Parent Did Not File Income Tax

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    and Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Annie Trout

    Annie has spent the past 18+ years educating students about college admissions opportunities and coaching them through building a financial aid package. She has worked in college access and college admissions for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission/Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, Middle Tennessee State University, and Austin Peay State University.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: June 24th, 2024
    How to Fill Out the FAFSA if Parent Did Not File Income Tax

    Filling out the FAFSA can be tricky if your parents have no income tax filed. But students whose parents have an authorized extension on their taxes have nothing to fear. Although the process will be slightly more complicated, you will be able to receive aid. If your parents have documentation of their income from the previous year, you can still complete the FAFSA.

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    Why didn’t my parents file their taxes?

    You may be wondering why your parents haven’t filed their income taxes. There are many possible explanations for this, but here we will go over a few of the most common. It’s important to determine the reason your parents haven’t filed. If their failure to file is unauthorized, you may be disqualified from federal aid. Here are some common reasons for not filing taxes by the deadline:

    Received an extension 

    Your parents may have filed for an extension from the IRS. Taxpayers are automatically granted a 6-month extension if they file before the deadline. If your parents required an extension for any reason and filed in time, they may not have their taxes yet.

    Living out of the country 

    Taxpayers who live outside the country receive an extra two months to file. They are not required to file an extension. If your parents live outside of the country and have not yet filed, don’t fret. It may count as an excused extension in the eyes of the IRS.

    Military suspension of filing deadline 

    Active members of the military may receive an extension on their taxes without having to file for one.

    Unauthorized failure to file taxes

    In this situation, your parents have not received permission from the IRS to extend their deadline. Regardless of any extenuating circumstances, if they do not fit in the categories above, their delay is unauthorized. In this situation, you may be disqualified from federal aid. That being said, students whose parents are incarcerated or institutionalized may be able to file as an independent. Additionally, failures to file due to natural disasters may be excusable. Students affected by a natural disaster should reach out to the IRS and financial aid administrators for assistance.

    What documents do I need to file the FAFSA?

    Students whose parents have filed their taxes will have a simpler time filing the FAFSA. The FAFSA form is integrated into the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which imports financial information automatically. But this tool cannot be used if your parents have not filed their taxes. Fortunately, if your parents’ failure to file is authorized, you’ll be able to fill out the FAFSA using other documents. It’ll just take a little more work.

    Alternative forms if your parents haven’t filed their taxes:

    • Parents’ last pay stub of the year in question
    • Combination of their W-2 and 1099 forms
    • Signed statement that lists their adjusted gross income, if they are self-employed

    Because you are inputting information by hand, you should take extra care to ensure that it’s accurate. Overreporting of income may result in a lower financial aid package. Conversely, underreporting can lead to legal trouble. If it’s determined that your underreporting was intentional, it is considered fraudulent.

    What if my parents don’t have the necessary forms?

    If your parents don’t have any of the necessary forms on-hand, they should be able to obtain them. Employers are legally required to provide these documents upon request. Unfortunately, some employers may be slow to provide the information. As a result, it’s a good idea to start collecting them long before the FAFSA deadline. 

    What if my parents’ failure to file is unauthorized?

    If your parents did not receive permission to delay their filing, you will be ineligible for financial aid. If your parents simply forgot to file, you should urge them to do so immediately. If your parents are unwilling to file their taxes for other reasons, unfortunately, there is little that you can do. However, you shouldn’t be discouraged from still trying to pursue your degree! Your best option may be to take a gap year and work to save up money to pay for school on your own, or  to look into affordable alternatives to a four-year college. These can include coding bootcamp, trade school, community college, and certificate programs. You can also explore  income share agreements as a way to pay for your education!

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Speak with your parents about whether they have filed, if they plan to file, or if they have a valid extension and plan to file later in the year 
    • If they don’t plan to file, try tracking down alternative documentation that your parents may have to file your FAFSA with, such as a W-2 and 1099 form
    • Once you have those alternative documents, fill out the FAFSA
    • If you are unable to obtain documentation and your parents don’t plan to file, carefully consider what your options are in regard to pursuing your education and what may be a realistic plan for your near future

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    Frequently asked questions about how to fill out the FAFSA if parent did not file income tax

    What happens if you have no income for FAFSA?

    If you have no income to report then you will report that you have zero income. Having no income, or an amount minimal enough that you do not have to file income taxes, will usually require you to provide some other form or verification, such as a W-2 or 1099. Additionally, those who report zero income may need to supply additional verification.

    Why does FAFSA ask for untaxed income?

    The income on your federal tax return does not always reflect the full amount of money or assets that your family has access to. Because of this, the FAFSA asks that you also include these other sources of income to gain a better idea of how much federal aid you really need.

    Do I have to file taxes if I only get financial aid?

    If you need to file taxes depends on the type of aid you are receiving, the amount you are receiving, and whether or not you are an independent or dependent student. Things like scholarships, grants and loans are not usually taxed. However, programs like work study, where you are earning a paycheck, will be taxed. If you are unsure, speak with your financial aid office immediately.

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