How to Estimate the Income Tax for FAFSA Before Reporting Tax

If you haven’t filed your income tax return before you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you’re allowed to estimate what your adjusted gross income will be and substitute the estimate on your FAFSA application. Your adjusted gross income includes your taxable income from all sources, minus some deductions. It doesn’t include any credits and you don’t need any information about the taxes withheld from you during the year.

Download IRS Form 1040 from the IRS website. This will help you make sure you haven’t overlooked any sources of income or deductions you’ll need to consider when estimating your adjusted gross income.

Calculate your taxable income. For most students this would be employment wages or 1099 income. Look at lines 7 through 22 on Form 1040 to make sure you’ve included all income sources in your estimate.

Calculate your deductions. These are shown on lines 23 through 37 on the 1040 form. The deductions in this section aren’t very common for students, so it’s okay if you don’t have anything from this category to include in your estimate. However, if you’re a returning student, you might qualify for the student loan interest or tuition and fees deduction.

Subtract your estimated deductions from your estimated income. The result is your adjusted gross income, or the amount that would appear on line 37 of the 1040 form. This is the figure to include as an estimate on your FAFSA form.


  • If you are age 24 or under and are unmarried, you can be considered a dependent student for the FAFSA form. In this instance, you must claim your parent's income on the FAFSA application. Use your parent's income and deduction information, not your own, to estimate the adjusted gross income to report.

About the Author

With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.