In order to receive the highest amount of aid, you should submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible as of January 1st of the year you will be attending. This is because most colleges award some kinds of aid on a first-come, first-served basis. Colleges can and will check to see when you submitted your FAFSA and will award aid accordingly. Now it is true that the FAFSA asks for tax information that you might not have yet, but it is best to estimate your taxes and submit the FAFSA anyway. You can always go in later to correct the information.
It is important to note that colleges that offer institutional aid often will require you to submit different forms in addition to the FAFSA. Be sure to check with your school's financial aid office to know exactly what kinds of aid are available and what you can do to receive them.
If you receive any information requests from your college, make sure you respond as quickly as possible. This will help ensure that you get the right amount of financial aid and that you get it on time. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your school's financial aid office.
NOTE: When submitting the FAFSA, make sure you are submitting it for the right year. All too often, parents or students will run into problems after accidentally sending in the FAFSA for the wrong school year.
Get started with your application at the FAFSA website.