FAFSA Filing Just Got Earlier... and Easier!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the starting point to apply for most types of financial aid. Until now, the earliest you could file a FAFSA was January 1 for the upcoming academic year. The family financial information reported on the FAFSA was from the just completed calendar year. Most families had to estimate their income and tax-related information for the FAFSA since they had not yet completed their federal tax return. Later, when tax returns were completed, families had to go back to the FAFSA and make corrections to report actual income and tax information. All of this is changing!
Now, the earliest date you can submit a FAFSA is advanced from January 1 to October 1. Soon it will be time to fill out the 2017-2018 FAFSA beginning on October 1. The earlier submission date is a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit a FAFSA as early as October 1 every year.
The other big news is that beginning with the 2017–2018 FAFSA, students and their families will report income and tax information from an earlier tax year. For example, on the 2017–2018 FAFSA, applicants—and their parents, as appropriate—will report 2015 income and tax information, rather than 2016 income and tax information. This change will make the FAFSA easier because you will already have completed your taxes by the time you fill out the FAFSA, and you may be able to automatically import your tax information into the FAFSA. This earlier tax year change is termed prior-prior-year reporting. In short, here is how it will work: complete your federal tax return by April 15; file the FAFSA beginning October 1 using the prior year tax return information; attend college in the following fall term.
FAFSA and IRS Data Retrieval Tool
For several years now families have had the option to automatically import federal tax return information from the IRS into the FAFSA. The application is called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The DRT saves you from having to look up and manually enter certain information required on the FAFSA. It also saves on data entry error problems. Families could only use the DRT if their tax returns had been completed. Under the old process, many families filled out the FAFSA in January with estimated information, completed their tax return in April, and then corrected the FAFSA later. They could not use the DRT in January because their tax return was not yet completed. With the new early FAFSA and prior-prior-year reporting, virtually every family required to file a tax return will have a completed tax return on file with the IRS and will be able to take advantage of the DRT. There may be some circumstances where a family cannot use the DRT and your school may require that you submit an IRS tax transcript, but for most folks filling out the FAFSA will become much easier.
Two FAFSAs in One Year
Some of you just completed the 2016-2017 FAFSA using your 2015 tax return information. In just a short time you will fill out another FAFSA as early as October 1 for the 2017-2018 academic year -- again using your 2015 tax return information under the new prior-prior-year practice. So, in this transition year, you may end up filing two FAFSAs in one year. So, mark your calendar for October 1 to fill out the 2017-2018 FAFSA!
New FAFSA Priority Filing Deadline is January 31
Along with the new, earlier, FAFSA filing date, the WWU FAFSA priority filing deadline is now January 31 instead of February 15. Complete next year’s FAFSA between October 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017 – the earlier the better!
As you prepare for the earlier October 1 FAFSA filing date using the easier prior-prior-year tax return information, please contact us if you have any questions. Our friendly and well-trained staff are ready to help.