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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.

Your first option is to use your parents’ last pay stub of the year in question. This form should include all the necessary information. If you don’t have that handy, you can use their W-2 and 1099 forms. If either of your parents is self-employed, you could also use a signed statement that lists their adjusted gross income.

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. They will face a late penalty, but they will eventually have to file regardless. By disqualifying you from financial aid, they are only magnifying the consequences of failing to file.

If your parents are unwilling to file their taxes for other reasons, unfortunately, there is little that you can do. Without financial aid eligibility, you will be disqualified from many private scholarships as well. Your best option may be to look into affordable alternatives to a four-year college. These can include coding bootcamp, trade school, community college, and certificate programs.

Most of these college alternatives cost a fraction of what four-year colleges cost. Coding bootcamps typically even offer income share agreements. These agreements require no money up front from the student. Students pay a portion of their paycheck once they start their new job after graduating. 

Related: What if my parents refuse to pay for college?

Next steps

Completing the FAFSA can be tough if your parents have no income tax filed. But if your parents’ failure to file is authorized, you’re in luck! All you have to do is track down the necessary documents. To review, you can use any of the following combinations of documents:

  • Last pay stub from the year in question
  • W-2 and 1099 forms
  • If self-employed, a written statement which lists the parent’s gross adjusted income

Once you have these documents, you can fill out the FAFSA. It will walk you through which figures from the documents need to be included. Make sure to double-check each figure that you input. An extra zero could throw off your entire results!

If your parents have no income tax filed and their failure to file is unauthorized, you’ll have a tougher time filling out the FAFSA. If you cannot convince your parents to correct the situation, you are ineligible for federal aid. It’s a good idea to look into other affordable options. After all, you don’t want to graduate from your program with too much debt.

Also read: How to complete this year’s FAFSA