You may apply for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. You'll answer questions about your school career as well as provide financial information about you and your parents. The financial information is from tax returns, which may be verified with the IRS before student aid is provided.
Your FAFSA application may be selected for a process known as verification in which a FAFSA processor verifies all information from the application. This information includes your tax records, which must be copied and mailed to the location on your verification notification. This location is generally the school where your financial aid will be applied. The verification process can take up to six weeks and any information that is found not to match the FAFSA application will need to be resubmitted before the application can be processed.
You'll need several tax documents to fill out your FAFSA. You'll need your and your parent's tax return as well as your W-2. You also must submit any untaxed income for the year prior to the year in which you are filling out the FAFSA application. For example, you will need your information from 2010 when filling out the FAFSA for 2011.
You can elect to input your tax information onto the FAFSA form or import the data from the IRS website. If you choose to import the data, you will be required to enter the PIN number associated with your FAFSA account into the IRS website to verify your identity. If you import your information, you must still compare your records with the IRS's to ensure there are no inaccuracies. Any differences should be reported to the IRS before continuing with the FAFSA application.
File your taxes and FAFSA as early as possible to expedite the handling of your financial aid. The early filing can prevent deadline issues if you are chosen for verification. Deadlines for filing the FAFSA are on its website, where you'll also find the application.