If your child is headed to college this fall, you may find yourself staring at a FAFSA form this time of year, wondering how you’ll get it done if you haven’t yet filed their taxes.  

FAFSA or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the one form that determines a college student’s eligibility for PELL and other grants and loans. The FAFSA filing deadline isn’t until June 30 for federal student aid, but many colleges seek applications well before that deadline to help them make financial aid decisions. Some want it now.

Trouble is, FAFSA requires up-to-date tax information, such as adjusted gross income, income tax paid, credits claimed, and more. To have that updated information, you have to have filed your taxes for 2014. If you’re an early filer, no problem. If not, that’s actually not a problem, either.


Estimate Income and Taxes. FAFSA allows you to make a good guess at what your tax return will include. To file FAFSA without your 2014 tax return, you’ll need:

  • A late December pay stub for yourself and your spouse, if filing jointly 
  • Last year’s tax return 

Review the documents and make necessary changes on income, deductions, and things that you know have changed in the last year that will affect your tax situation. Then, do the math. Better yet, use this income tax calculator to help you estimate.


Submit Your Application. Once you’ve got it worked out, you’re ready to submit your application. Of course, you’ll need to acknowledge that what you’re providing is an estimate. After you’ve visited your tax preparer and had your income taxes filed, you’ll need to input the updated information.


File Your Taxes. After you’ve got the FAFSA filing out of the way, you can proceed as usual with filing your taxes by the April 15 deadline. If 2014 was the first year you had a child in college, don’t forget to check out the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The credit allows you to deduct qualified education expenses up to $2,500 per eligible student. Be sure to ask your tax preparer about all the credits and deductions that may be available to you.