Schools that award a lot of their own money in the form of need-based grants will likely require you to submit copies of your latest federal tax returns. As a general rule, if a school requires the family to complete a CSS Profile Application in addition to the FAFSA, then they will usually require copy of federal tax returns as well.
All financial aid application requirements will be clearly outlined on each college financial aid office web page.
Q & A
Why do we have to submit my tax returns when we are providing so much information on the FAFSA and the CSS Profile?
Colleges that collect copies of your tax returns and use the CSS Profile typically conduct a more thorough verification of family income and assets than is required for the awarding of federal financial aid. The review of your tax returns is part of this enhanced verification process.
Do we still have to submit copies of our tax returns if we successfully completed the IRS database match process when completing the FAFSA?
Yes. At schools that require tax returns, calculating your financial aid is a two-part process. One part is the federal process, which includes the FAFSA, the IRS data retrieval and federal verification. The second part is the institutional (school based) process, which often includes the CSS PROFILE and copies of your federal tax returns. The information on your federal tax returns is required for schools to validate your institutional financial aid application.
What exactly do we need to submit to fulfill the tax return requirement?
For most colleges with a tax return requirement you must submit signed copies of parent and student federal returns. You must include all schedules and all W2’s. Do not include state returns.
What do we do if the parent(s) do not file a federal tax return?
If you do not file a tax return, you will complete a Parent Non-Tax Filer form, which will be made available by the school financial aid office.
What do we do if the student does not file a federal tax return?
If the student will not file a tax return they will complete a Student Non-Tax Filer form, which will be made available by the school financial aid office.
What about business tax returns?
If you own all or part of a business, you will probably be required to submit complete copies of all business returns including balance sheets and all schedule K-1’s. Some colleges will require you to answer specific questions about your business on a separate questionnaire.
If you own a business or are self-employed you should carefully review the Business Owners Fact Sheet that describes the different ways that some colleges evaluate business income and assets when determining eligibility for institutional need-based grant.
How do we submit the tax returns to the school financial aid offices?
It depends on the college. Some will require you to submit the tax return copies directly to the school financial aid office by mail, fax or email. Many colleges, however, use the IDOC documentation service provided by the College Board. This service allows you to submit one copy of required forms – including tax returns – to IDOC. IDOC scans all the forms and delivers copies to each participating school. Please refer to the IDOC Fact Sheet for more detailed information.