Q: I’m going to be helping a 19-year-old young woman participating in extended foster care complete the FAFSA when it becomes available in October. I understand that foster youth are independent and so they do not provide any parent or guardian tax information, however are they required to provide their own tax information? What if they didn’t file taxes?
You are correct. If she was in foster care at least one day after age 13, she is considered independent on the FAFSA, and does not provide any information about parents, guardians or caregivers.
In some cases, non-minor dependents file taxes, however in many cases they do not file taxes because they have earned less than the standard deduction. The FAFSA now uses “prior-prior-year” data, so for the 2018-19 school year, 2016 taxes would be used.
- If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did file taxes, he/she should submit tax transcripts using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
- If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did not file taxes because he/she earned less than the standard deduction ($10,350 for a single taxpayer in 2016), then he/she would not be required to provide tax transcripts when applying for financial aid.
Students not required to file taxes will need to provide Verification of Nonfiling. This could be a signed statement by the student certifying that he/she has not filed and is not required to file a 2016 income tax return. Because the statement is very specific, most schools have created a document for students to complete and sign. If your school does not provide this, make sure that your certifying letter includes a listing of any 2016 earned income and a copy of any IRS Form W-2 for any income earned that year.
- U.S. Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid. “Dear Colleague” Letter (April 24, 2017) https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1704.html.
- Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 63 (April 1, 2016). https://ifap.ed.gov/fregisters/attachments/FR040116FAFSA20172018BeVerified.pdf