Can you submit your FAFSA without your parents' tax documents? See if you qualify for a dependency override. It's not as easy as you think.
According to studentaid.gov, the student aid programs are based on the idea that your parents and you will be paying for your college education. “A dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents,” meaning you will need their financial information to file your FAFSA. However, this doesn’t mean your parents must pay for your education. This system of reporting was developed to get a concise picture of your financial background and resources. To create a somewhat standardized financial reporting system for American college students, with the idea this is the fairest way to distribute government financial aid. As you can imagine, there are many circumstances and situations that make gathering your parents' financial information or federal income tax returns hard. Some students feel like they can claim themselves as independent when they’re really considered dependent according to the office of Federal Student Aid. If you’re wondering Do I have to claim my parent’s income on the FAFSA? Or Am I independent or dependent? You can find the answer to this common question by answering a few yes/no questions at studentaid.gov. Some students find themselves in a difficult position if their parents don’t file their income tax returns. Take this student’s situation as an example: “I’m 22 years old, and I don't receive any financial aid. I've tried to fill out the FAFSA but I have an obstacle. I claim myself and no one else on my taxes. No one claims me. My mom does not fill out a tax return because she doesn't get a W-2. (She works as a bartender at a very small bar and is paid in cash only.) I still live at home with her, but other than that I don't get any financial help from her. Am I able to fill out a FAFSA without providing any of her information, or do I have to wait until I'm 24?” — Angela T.If you are a dependent student, your parents must complete the FAFSA—your parents’ income must be claimed on your FAFSA. Your parents must also supply copies of their federal income tax returns if requested by the college financial aid administrator. If you’re considered an independent student, parental information is not required on your FAFSA. In most cases a student who is under age 24 by January 1 of the academic year is considered to be a dependent student, regardless of whether the student is claimed as an exemption on the parent's federal income tax return and regardless of whether the student is financially self-sufficient. You may be an independent student if you are: • Married • A graduate student• A military veteran or active duty member of the United States Armed Forces • An orphan • Claim a dependent other than a spouse • A parent or have childrenWhen there are unusual circumstances, you can appeal to your college’s financial aid administrator for a dependency override. Unusual circumstances do not include any of the following circumstances, alone or in combination: • You take care of yourself financially or you’re self-sufficient. • Your parents do not claim you as an exemption on their federal income tax returns. • Your parents refuse to complete the FAFSA. • Your parents reject filing federal income tax returns or other documentation during verification. • Your parents will not contribute to or pay for your college education. College financial aid administrators grant dependency overrides in rare circumstances. The student might receive a dependency override if: • Both parents are incarcerated or institutionalized. • There is an abusive family environment, such as when there are court protection from abuse orders against the parents. Living at home with one's parents, however, is inconsistent with most of the circumstances that typically justify a dependency override. College financial aid administrators generally do not grant dependency overrides for a failure to file required federal income tax returns. Guidance from the US Department of Education requires college financial aid administrators to know "(1) whether a person was required to file a tax return, (2) what the correct filing status for a person should be, and (3) that an individual cannot be claimed as an exemption by more than one person."