What Year Tax Return for FAFSA 2021?

When applying for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), one of the key factors considered is the applicant’s financial situation. This is determined by the income and tax information provided by the student and their parents. However, there is often confusion about which year’s tax return should be used for FAFSA 2021.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, the FAFSA requires the use of tax information from the tax year 2019. This means that applicants and their parents will need to refer to their 2019 federal income tax return when completing the FAFSA for the 2021-2022 year.

Using tax information from a previous year allows applicants to submit their FAFSA as soon as it opens on October 1st, rather than waiting until the current year’s tax returns are filed. This ensures that students have ample time to meet financial aid deadlines and receive aid packages in a timely manner.

It is important to note that the FAFSA provides an option for applicants to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This tool allows students and parents to automatically transfer their tax return data directly from the IRS to the FAFSA, simplifying the process and reducing the chances of errors. However, not all applicants are eligible to use the DRT, and in such cases, they will need to manually enter their tax information.


1. Can I use my 2020 tax return for FAFSA 2021?
No, for the 2021-2022 academic year, you need to use your 2019 tax return.

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2. What if my financial situation has changed since 2019?
If your financial situation has significantly changed, you can contact the financial aid office at your chosen institution to explain the circumstances and provide any necessary documentation.

3. I haven’t filed my 2019 tax return yet. Can I still submit my FAFSA?
Yes, you can submit your FAFSA using estimated tax information, but you will need to update it once you have filed your 2019 tax return.

4. What if my parents are divorced or separated?
If your parents are divorced or separated, you will typically need to provide tax information for the parent you lived with the most during the past year. However, if that parent has remarried, you may also need to include the income and tax information of their spouse.

5. Can I amend my FAFSA if there are mistakes in the tax information?
Yes, you can make corrections to your FAFSA if you realize there are errors in the tax information you provided. Use the FAFSA website to make the necessary corrections.

6. What if I did not file a tax return in 2019?
If you did not file a tax return in 2019, you will need to indicate this on the FAFSA and provide any other income information you may have.

7. Can I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if I filed an amended tax return?
No, if you filed an amended tax return, you will need to manually enter your tax information on the FAFSA.

8. Is it possible to update my FAFSA if my family’s financial situation changes during the year?
Yes, if your family experiences a significant change in financial circumstances after submitting your FAFSA, you can contact the financial aid office at your school to discuss the situation and provide additional documentation if required.

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In conclusion, for FAFSA 2021, applicants should use their 2019 tax return. It is essential to provide accurate and up-to-date tax information to ensure that students receive the appropriate financial aid package for the upcoming academic year.

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