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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

College Aid: The FAFSA Yet Once More

Ugh. For some reason, I hate filing the FAFSA (Federal Financial Aid form or whatever). My children did not receive Federal Aid, but the form is still the gateway to other aid, of the sort they got. So, I filled out what I thought would be my last one (for Miss Em). Since it was not crucial that all my numbers be accurate (because those numbers are used for Federal Aid such as Pell Grants and subsidized loans), I completed the form before I completed my taxes, as I had in the past.

Here's the email I got yesterday. Hold on to your hats.

Recently your information was provided in the parental section of your student's 2012-2013 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information you provided indicated that you were going to file your taxes and were providing estimated 2011 tax information. Now that the federal tax filing deadline has passed and you have probably filed your 2011 tax returns, it is time for you to update your student's FAFSA.

Updated information can be provided once your student accesses their FAFSA at You should change your answer on the FAFSA (question 79) to reflect that you have "already completed" your tax return. Once you've made this change, you will need to update the information you initially reported on the FAFSA to reflect the actual information from the 2011 tax return you filed. If you filed a federal tax return with the IRS, when you update the information online, you may be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which is the best and easiest way to provide accurate tax information. With just a few simple steps, you can view information from your IRS tax return and transfer that information directly into your student's FAFSA.

If you are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you are still required to update the income information so that it reflects the information on the 2011 tax return you filed. The tax-related questions you should review on your student's FAFSA include adjusted gross income, income tax paid, number of exemptions, and income earned from work. You should also ensure that your FAFSA correctly identifies the type of tax return that was filed (IRS 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, foreign tax return, etc.) and that you have entered the correct amounts for Additional Financial Information (questions 91a-f) and Other Untaxed Income (questions 92a-i).

It is important that you make the necessary changes to the tax information so that your student's FAFSA includes the same information that was included on your tax return. However, when making corrections based on your completed federal tax returns, do not update other information that was correct at the time you filed your FAFSA. For example, do not change your answer for household size (question 72) or for number in college (question 73); unless your answer was incorrect as of the date you originally signed the FAFSA.

Keep in mind that if the FAFSA also contains estimated tax information for your student, that information should also be updated to reflect the actual information from the 2011 tax return your student filed. If your student filed a federal tax return with the IRS, they may also be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when they access the FAFSA online. If you or your student has not completed the 2011 federal tax returns at this time, you must be sure to update your FAFSA information once the returns have been completed. Your student's ability to receive federal student aid can be impacted if you do not make the necessary updates or corrections.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have additional questions regarding the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, online help is available. Visit and click the "Browse Help" feature on the FAFSA home page for information on the tool and the FAFSA process.

U.S. Department of Education

This is nearly incomprehensible, even to me, with my excellent reading skills. My favorite part is the statement that since the federal tax filing date has passed, I should update my form. UMMMMM. APRIL 15, anyone?

Oh, how I loathe these emails. Surely, the bureaucrats can find someone in need of a job....WHO CAN WRITE CLEARLY. And know what the federal filing date is.


Anonymous said...

Amazing! I wonder what would happen if you replied that the deadline to file taxes has not yet arrived.

Also, wonder if this is one of those "Reply All" e-mails that embarasses one of my colleagues at the rate of once a week.

D A Wolf said...

I went through this particular hell (and much more) as my younger son was applying to college last year, and the "special requirements" financial aid reporting processes kicked in as well as FAFSA.

I am now in this misery again for both my college kids, and find this equally comprehensible as I continue to prepare my taxes...

And to think they recalled all my lots of Excedrin Migraine. Life is too cruel...

(If you figure this out, will you let me know? Seriously!)

(BigLittleWolf @ DailyPlateOfCrazy)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--i did and got an email back. The respponse was also in bureaucrat-ese. Haha about the reply alls...

@DAWolf--I got a correction and it will be on the blog tomorrow. Of course, you probably got one too. How ridiculous!

Patience_Crabstick said...

I got that same email. I'm assuming you've now gotten the follow up email announcing their mistake. I know the tax deadline is April 17th, but I am just gullible enough to have worried a bit that there was some sort of separate deadline for FAFSA parents that I didn't know about.

Vildy said...

What it is is that they added a stealth requirement that I only happened on by accident. Caused me to file my taxes electronically so it would be available to them. I had done my son's taxes early, anyway, and he had gotten a refund but the IRS site hadn't caught up to this.
They just mean, but can't say, that the deadline for priority consideration for aid can be early for your school. Ours was March 15.
And then you have to allow weeks for electronic filing to show up and months for the paper version.
They also say that they will no longer accept paper forms if your application is selected for verification. That means that because I mailed son's taxes, he would have to order a copy from IRS and pay for it.

I hate the FAFSA like poison, too.

Shelley said...

Ouch. I'm afraid I'd have uneducated children if this was the swamp through which I had to swim! I was offered financial assistance when I started university, but was stopped at the first hurdle. All I needed to do was supply a copy of my Dad's income tax form, but he hadn't filed and had no intention of doing so... He got away with it, but it's not a gamble I'd be prepared to take. I think there must be a special school they send bureaucrats to teach them how not to communicate.