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Verification Process

When a student/family complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), they may be randomly selected by the federal government for a process known as “Verification”. This really is a fancy word for “audit”. In general, it means that the college/university is required by the federal government to “verify” the information provided on the FAFSA application prior to awarding or disbursing aid to students. Verification can be accomplished in a couple of ways and requires a couple of steps on the part of the student/family.

First of all, completion of a Verification Worksheet is required. Verification Worksheets exist depending on the Dependent/Independent status of the student and the level of verification selected by the federal government on the FAFSA form. This form must be completed by the Independent student or by the Dependent student and their parent. The forms are attached here.

The second part of the Verification process is to confirm the numbers filed on the Federal IRS tax return. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this task.

  1. A student/family may utilize the Data Retrieval Tool from within the FAFSA online (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov) to retrieve their IRS tax return information electronically. This will pull the necessary data from the IRS into the FAFSA application where it can be re-submitted for processing and the data will be verified. If a student and a parent both complete federal tax returns, then both tax returns would have to be retrieved using the tool.

  2. A student/family may choose to request a Federal Tax Return Transcript. This tax transcript is a computer generated report detailing (line by line) the amounts you reported on your federal return. The Federal Tax Return Transcript is free of charge and can be obtained in one of the following ways:
    a) Calling 1-800-908-9946 and ordering a Tax Return Transcript.
    b) Visiting http://www.IRS.gov and clicking on “Get Transcript of Your Tax Records”.
    c) Completing IRS form 4506-T, which is a Request of Transcript of Tax Return. Click here to obtain the form.

The federal government will no longer allow schools to use copies of a family’s federal tax return as a valid method of Verification.

Trouble-shooting

Since this process is a fairly new process for the federal government, one might expect a few hiccups. We have noticed that some families are having difficulties for a variety of reasons. We will attempt to outline some of the issues we’ve observed in hopes this might help you if you too are experiencing difficulties.

  1. When attempting to link from within the FAFSA to the IRS forms, a student/family must have the addresses typed exactly right and matching your tax return perfectly. The examples below show the same address typed a variety of ways and could result in the Retrieval Tool not working properly. Abbreviations and punctuation are very important!
    • 100 North Main St
    • 100 North Main St.
    • 100 North Main Street
    • 100 N. Main St
    • 100 N Main St.
  2. Some families are able to successfully use the Retrieval Tool, linking to the IRS and retrieving the data into their FAFSA application. However, they are then failing to realize they must proceed through the signature (using pin #’s) and re-submission process of the FAFSA. If you mistakenly close the FAFSA application without re-submitting for correction with the link established, it will not reprocess and will not fulfill the requirements of Verification.
  3. If a family just recently submitted their federal tax return, it will take up to two or three weeks to be able to link properly.
  4. If a family submitted their tax return and owed tax to be taken out of an account automatically on April 15th, then the tax return is not considered complete and able to be retrieved or requested until after the payment is processed.
  5. There are two similarly named forms available from the IRS; an Account Transcript and a Tax Return Transcript. The Account Transcript is sometimes being requested in error. To complete the Verification process a Tax Return Transcript is needed.
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