While I know the 2016-2017 school year just got started, there is no such thing as starting to plan too early for the 2017-2018 school year. October 1, 2016: mark it on your calendar now. Why? Because it is the official launch date for students to start filing their FAFSA forms for the 2017-2018 school year. Please note that the 2017-2018 filing season starts three months earlier than previous years.
Though that may seem extremely early, the reality is the earlier you file, the better chance you have at receiving grants and aid.
Many know that tax returns are used to create a financial aid package, so how will a package be created if there aren’t any current tax returns to use? Here is what you will do: You will use the “prior-prior” federal tax return for the FAFSA filing. In other words, you will use your 2015 federal tax return for the 2017-2018 school year; the 2016 return will be used for the 2018-2019 school year and so on.
In addition to the new start filing start date, parents and guardians should now be able to use the Internal Revenue Service’s Data Retrieval Tool which will automatically fill in your tax information on the online FAFSA form.
Things You Need to Know About FAFSA:
Be prepared to file as soon as possible. How?
Start gathering the documents needed to file the FAFSA, including federal tax returns, 1099s, current bank and brokerage statements, student’s driver license, Social Security cards for child and parents, etc. Register for a FSA ID at fsaid.ed.gov before the kickoff date.
You cannot use the 2016-2017 form for the 2017-2018 school year. Why?
Things may have changed and all assets used for the filing (e.g. bank statements) must have the same year as the FAFSA filing.
Filing the FAFSA is free.
Beware because there are entities that will “help” you file a FAFSA for a fee. Remember, the government site at FAFSA.gov has all the information and forms needed to file yourself. Check that site or with your college’s financial aid office if you have any questions. You can also contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243.
Everyone should file a FAFSA as close to the October 1, 2016 date as possible.
Because you are no longer required to estimate income and tax information, there really is no reason why one should wait to file.
FAFSA deadlines are not the same as state deadlines for aid.
FAFSA forms can be submitted from October 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018 for the 2017-2018 school year, but every state has its own deadline for state aid.
Don’t inflate your income.
Though the start date has changed, some rules have not. You do not have to report money held in 401(k) or IRA accounts, nor do you have to estimate the equity of your home.
The deadline for filing for financial aid is June 30 of the end of that academic year.
For example, if you failed to file a FAFSA for the 2016-2017 school year, don’t worry. You can still file up through your last day of class or by June 30, 2017.
Remember, the earlier you file, the better chance you have at receiving aid.
Information for this article came from Susan Tompor’s article in the Detroit Free Press. To read her article, click here.
Image from www.southwest.tn.edu.
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