How Can I Fill Out a FAFSA Without a Tax Return?


You can fill out a FAFSA, which is also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, without a tax return in certain situations recognized by the government. We explain how you may still be able to complete and submit your FAFSA when you do not have your or your parents’ tax return.

how to fill out a fafsa without tax return

The purpose of providing tax return information on the FAFSA is to help give the government an idea of your financial situation in order to determine your need for assistance. However, there may be reasons why you don’t have access to the required tax returns or have returns at all.

First, let’s review whose tax information may be needed to complete the FAFSA. If you, the student, are your parent’s dependent, you’ll need information from your parent’s tax return. If you personally have income you may also need to file an income tax return and use that information on the application.

Have other student tax filing questions?  Be sure to visit our Tax Guide for College Students and find out about student forms that can be filed for free.  

How to Apply for FAFSA Without a Tax Return

Depending on your personal situation, how you complete the form will differ. Below we outline a few situations and the answers you should apply.

You have yet to file your return – In the past, the dates of when the FAFSA was available and the specific year of tax return information needed made it difficult for those trying to get their application in early. Luckily, the government made changes to the process in 2015 that allowed for an earlier submission date and also allowed for an older tax return to be used.

For the 2019-2020 school year, you will need your tax information from the 2017 tax year and you can submit your application between October 1, 2018, and June 30, 2020. In most cases, you will have already filed your tax return before October 1, 2018. However, if you filed an extension, your return is not due until October 15. If you need the full extension period to complete your taxes, you may not have the tax return information in time to submit your FAFSA early.

If that is the case, you can indicate “Will file” on the form and can use a late December 2017 paystub and your 2016 income tax return to provide estimates for questions about your income if it is similar. If your income is not similar, you can use the Income Estimator available when you complete the FAFSA online at

Once you file your return, you must update your FAFSA from “Will file” to “Already completed” and enter your final amounts.

You or your parents are not required to file a return – If your or your parents’ income is below the minimum amount to file taxes, you can choose the option “Will not file” when you complete the FAFSA. However, you will need to provide any W-2, 1099 or final pay stub received for that specific year.

Your parents are not citizens and do not live the U.S. – If your parents do not live the U.S., you will be able to choose “Foreign Country” as an answer to the question about their state of legal residence. Additionally, you can select “Foreign tax return” in answer to the question of what type of tax return they filed.

Questions About the Information on Your Tax Return?

Our Tax Pros are available to help. They’re dedicated to knowing the nuances of taxes and can help you understand your return.

Make an Appointment to speak with a Tax Pro today.

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