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Student Loans

Should You Include Your Spouse’s Income on the FAFSA?

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step if you want federal financial aid for college. If you’re a dependent student as defined by the federal government, you will have to enter your parents’ information as well.

But if you’re married, you might need to enter your spouse’s income as part of the information. Here’s more about when this might be the case.

How to fill out question 28 about spouse’s income on the FAFSA

Question 28 on the 2024 – 2025 FAFSA asks for your spouse’s income on your last tax return. If you were living with them at the time you filed taxes, you must include their income. You’ll get this information from your spouse’s 2022 tax return.

Just as a dependent student must include parental income, married students need to include their spouse’s income on the FAFSA because it helps determine financial need.

This information might be transferred directly from the IRS via the FUTURE Act Direct Data Exchange (FA-DDX), which is designed to import information into an applicant’s FAFSA form for convenience.

FA-DDX transferred data includes:

  • Income earned from work
  • Tax exempt interest income
  • Untaxed portion of IRA distributions and pensions
  • Adjusted gross income
  • Income tax paid
  • IRA deductions and payments to self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, and qualified plans
  • Education credits
  • Net business profit or loss

You’ll need to enter the following information about your spouse’s income manually:

  • IRA or pension rollover into another qualified plan
  • Earned income credit received
  • Taxable grants, scholarships, or AmeriCorps benefits
  • Foreign earned income exclusion

What if you and your spouse are separated?

If you’re separated from your spouse, you can enter that status on the FAFSA. You might need to provide documentation to prove you and your spouse are living in separate places. You might also be required to provide separate utility bills or lease agreements or proof that one of you has filed for divorce.

What happens if you leave off your spouse’s income?

If you’re married, don’t leave off your spouse’s income; you could find yourself denied future financial aid and even be required to pay back aid you’ve already received.

How income affects your financial aid

The federal government begins from the standpoint that it’s your job—and that of your parents if you’re a dependent student—to be the primary source of funds for your education. The FAFSA requires detailed financial information to determine how much actual financial need you have.

The FAFSA’s aid formula calculates what’s called a Student Aid Index (SAI)—the amount the federal government, after looking at your finances, thinks you should be able to contribute to school.

It uses that as a basis to decide, based upon what colleges you listed, how much financial aid you are eligible for. The more income your household shows, the less financial aid you might be able to receive.