My married parents want to file their income tax returns as married
filing separately. If the parent with the lower income claims me as a
dependent, does that mean that I will receive more financial aid than
I would if the other parent (with higher income) claimed me as a
— Ilya S.
Although you indicated that your parents are married, it is still
possible for them to have an informal separation, so I will address
all possibilities in my response to your question.
Unless your parents are divorced or separated, it does not matter
whether they file their income tax returns as married filing jointly
or married filing separately. Both incomes must be reported on the FAFSA.
Tax filing status does not affect who completes the FAFSA. The parents
have to actually be divorced or separated, not just filing separate
returns, for only one parent to be responsible for completing the FAFSA.
If your parents are divorced, have a legal separation or have an
informal separation (which precludes them living at the same address),
then the parent with whom you lived the most during the previous
twelve months will complete the FAFSA. If you lived with them equally,
the parent who provided more support during the past twelve months
would be responsible for completing the FAFSA. Otherwise, the parent
who completes the FAFSA will be based on the most recent calendar year
during which either parent provided more support. Who claims you as a
dependent on their income tax returns is usually irrelevant.
I am trying to consolidate my student loans, and I was advised that
I should file my income tax return as married filing separately in
order to take advantage of the income-based repayment program and that
would enable me to get a lower pay back amount and save money over the
following years. Is this true?
— Arlene G.
The technical amendments for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act
of 2007 (P.L. 110-153) added a special rule for married borrowers who
file separate federal income tax returns. For these borrowers the
monthly payment under the income-based repayment plan is based solely
on the borrower's student loan debt and adjusted gross income. The
debt and income of the borrower's spouse are ignored. This can reduce
the monthly loan payment. It also sometimes yields significant
savings, especially if the borrower qualifies for public service loan
This is the only situation where there is a student aid benefit to
filing separate returns. In most other cases taxpayers who file
separate returns are ineligible for education tax benefits. For
example, if you file a separate return you will not be eligible for
the student loan interest deduction. Taxpayers who file separate
returns are also ineligible for the Hope Scholarship and Lifetime
Learning tax credits.