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Early FAFSA and IRS Data Retrieval Process

In this Section

The Department of Education announced that while traditionally the FAFSA filing cycle begins on January 1 of the year preceding  the award/academic year, beginning with the 2017-2018 FAFSA cycle, the application will become available  to students and their families three months earlier on October 1, 2016. 

Beginning with the 2017-2018 cycle, the FAFSA will collect income information from the tax/calendar year one year earlier than has been used in the past.  What this means is that for the 2017-2018 FAFSA, students and families will need to use their 2015 tax information rather than their 2016 tax information.

What You Need to Know About the 2017-2018 FAFSA

FAQ's About the 2017-2018 FAFSA

  • Will my 2016-2017 FAFSA information be carried over onto the 2017-2018 FAFSA?  If you choose the Renewal FAFSA option when you start your application at, some basic information from your 2016-2017 FAFSA will be perpopulated in your 2017-2018 FAFSA.  However, your tax and income information will not.
  • Can I choose to report 2016 information if my family's income has dropped significantly since we filed 2015 taxes?  No.  You must report 2015 tax and income information, as the FAFSA requires.  If your family's financial situation has changed dramatically since then, you should complete the FAFSA questions as required, submit the FAFSA, then contact the Financial Aid Office.
  • Do I report my 2015 tax and income information on the 2017-2018 FAFSA now, and then update it once I've filed my 2016 taxes?  No.  Do not update after filing your taxes.  The 2017-2018 asks for 2015 information.
  • What if my parents' (or my) marital status has changed since we filed 2015 taxes?  How do we supply tax and income information on the FAFSA?  The FAFSA asks for marital status "as of today" (the day it's filled out).  So if the student or parent is married now but wasn't in 2015 (and therefore didn't file taxes as married), the spouse's income will need to be added to the FAFSA.  Similarly, if the student or parent filed 2015 taxes as married but is no longer married when filling out the FAFSA, the spouse's income will need to be subtracted.  And if the student or parent was married when filing 2015 taxes, then got divorced and is now married to someone else, there's a bit more math to do: subtract the ex's income, then add the new spouse's income.

**If you did not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when you filed your 2016-2017 FAFSA, it is recommended that you go in and do so prior to filing your 2017-2018 FAFSA.**

The Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service have partnered together so that students and families can retrieve their tax data directly from the IRS when completing the FAFSA.

We recommend you utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Process.  If you are selected for verification, in many cases you will not have to submit copies of tax transcripts before your financial aid eligibility is finalized.

This tutorial will guide you through using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool*.

* Credit for this video goes to the University of California at Santa Barbara

IRS Data Retrieval Tips

When using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool you must enter your name and address EXACTLY (upper/lower case) as it appears on your tax return.  The USPS may have updated your address to be postal compliant (ie. Street will be updated to ST).

The following applicants will not be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool:

  • Applicant or parent of a dependent student who filed an extension to file for tax year 2015 and have not filed as of October 15, 2016.
  • A married independent applicant and spouse who filed separate tax returns.
  • Parents of a dependent student who filed separate tax returns.
  • An applicant or applicant’s parent who had a change in marital status after December 31, 2014.
  • Unmarried parents living together.
If you already filed your FAFSA but did not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you may do so at  After entering your identifying information, click on “Make FAFSA Corrections” located in the middle of the page.