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FAFSA Verification

federal verification process

About Verification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Verification is the confirmation through documentation that the information provided on a student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is correct. The federal government requires colleges and universities to verify or confirm the data reported by students and their parent(s) on the FAFSA before financial aid can be awarded. This page lists some of the most commonly asked questions and answers regarding the verification process. 

Why was I selected for verification?

How will I know if I am selected for verification?

What is the deadline to submit verification documents?

How long does the verification process take?

I am a returning student, why is there no federal title IV funding on my account?

What documents will I need to provide for the verification process?

How do I get an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter and do I still need one if I did not work at all?

Why am I unable to submit my 1040 tax returns?

What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)?

How do I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

Why should I use the DRT? I already entered my tax information correctly.

What if I am unable or choose not to use the IRS DRT?

How do I request a Tax Return Transcript?

I amended my taxes using the federal 1040X form. What documents do I need to submit?

Is there any instance when I should NOT use the IRS DRT?

Am I eligible to use the DRT?

I filed as "Married filing separately". How do I verify my tax information since I cannot use the DRT?

I filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return. What documents are required for verification?

I was a victim of identity theft. What documents can I submit for verification?

What if I have lost a W-2 form?

What if I have requested a tax filing extension and still have not filed taxes?

Why did my financial aid change after the verification process was completed?

What happens if I do not provide the information being requested?

What if I reviewed the frequently asked questions and did not see an answer to my question?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was I selected for verification?

Each year students and their families apply for financial aid by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are various reasons why your FAFSA may have been selected for verification. The U.S. Department of Education does not share the model used to select FAFSAs for verification, but here are some red flags that are likely to lead to verification:

  • FAFSA includes incomplete data or data that appears to contradict itself
  • The IRS data retrieval tool was not used to download income tax data into the FAFSA
  • Taxes paid are inconsistent with an estimate based on the adjusted gross income and the number of exemptions claimed on the federal income tax return
  • FAFSA indicates that no tax return was filed, but income exceeds the IRS filing thresholds
  • Marital status as reported on the FAFSA is different from marital status reported on the federal income tax return
  • FAFSA reports zero income or income that’s too low to support the student (below the income protection allowance thresholds)
  • Household size on the FAFSA differs significantly from the number of exemptions claimed on the federal income tax return

How will I know if I am selected for verification?

Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will indicate you were selected. All selected Mercyhurst students will be sent a letter which details the documents required to complete verification.  An email will also be sent to your Mercyhurst Lakers email address informing you of your selection and what is needed.

What is the deadline to submit verification documents?

You will have 30 days upon notification from Mercyhurst to submit your verification documents. If you cannot submit your documentation within that timeframe you will need to contact the Student Financial Services Office on your campus.

How long does the verification process take?

Upon submission of all requested documents, it can take up to three weeks for your verification material to be reviewed. Once reviewed, you will be notified of any additional documentation needed. If nothing further is required, your information will be processed and your financial aid file will be complete. Students will receive notification via email that their verification has been completed. 

I am a returning student, why is there no federal title IV funding on my account?

Typically, we begin awarding our returning students who have completed the FAFSA in mid-May. However, if you are selected for verification, your award letter will not show federal student loans or federal PELL grant (if applicable) or federal work study (if applicable) until all required documentation is submitted and the verification process is complete.

What documents will I need to provide for the verification process?

While there are several types of verification which may require different documents, the most common type requires the following forms:

  • Verification Worksheet - Be sure to read the instructions carefully. If a mistake is made while filling out the form, cross it off and initial. Do not use white out on this form
  •  2016 Federal IRS Tax Return Transcript. You can also use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA (if a tax filer) for both the student and the parent
  • If a non-tax filer,  all W-2 Forms for both the student and the parent(s)
  • Non-tax filers will also need to obtain an IRS Verification of Non-filing Letter

We may request additional or alternative documentation based on the verification process for which you were selected.

How do I get an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter and do I still need one if I did not work at all?

Yes, you must get an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter even if you did not work at all in the tax year being referred to on the FAFSA being verified. Only dependent students who did not file a 2016 income tax form are not required to obtain this letter.

  • An IRS Verification of Non-filing Letter can be obtained online at www.irs.gov using the IRS Get Transcript service
  • If the individual cannot obtain one online for whatever reason, it must be obtained by completing and checking box 7 on the IRS Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, and mailing it to the IRS
  • If appropriate, a similar confirmation from another taxing authority (e.g., a U.S. territory or a foreign government) is also acceptable

Why am I unable to submit my 1040 tax returns?

As of July 2012, the Department of Education no longer permits schools to accept copies of federal tax returns as acceptable documentation for the verification process. Therefore, we are required by policy to obtain a copy of the Tax Return Transcript for verification purposes.

 

What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (commonly referred to as DRT) is a function on the FAFSA that allows you to directly transfer your tax information from the IRS database into the FAFSA. The DRT can be used when completing the FAFSA or when updating the FAFSA after the IRS has processed your tax return. If the DRT was used successfully to transfer the tax information into the FAFSA, a tax return transcript will not be required.

How do I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

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  • Log in to your current FAFSA form or start a new application at fafsa.gov
  • In the finances section of the online form, you will see a “Link to IRS” button if you are eligible to use the IRS DRT
  • Click the “Link to IRS” button and log in with your FSA ID  to be transferred to the IRS to retrieve your info
  • Once at the IRS site, enter your information exactly as it appears on your federal income tax return and click the “Submit” button
  • Check the “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA form” box, and click the “Transfer Now” button 
  • You will know that your federal tax return information has been successfully transferred because the words “Transferred from the IRS” will display in place of the IRS information in your FAFSA form.
  • For your protection, your tax information will not be displayed on either the IRS site or fafsa.gov
  • If you are a dependent student who filed a tax return, you will need to repeat the process for student income information
  • Once completed, continue to the “Sign & Submit” tab to fully process corrections and re-submit the FAFSA with the tax information from the DRT

Why should I use the DRT? I already entered my tax information correctly.

If an applicant does not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and the applicant's FAFSA is selected for verification, the applicant will be required to obtain a tax return transcript electronically from the IRS website or complete IRS Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, during verification. (It's usually quicker to request the tax transcript electronically or by calling 1-800-908-9946. It can take up to 30 days to process a paper copy of IRS Form 4506-T.) If the applicant, spouse or parent, as applicable, filed an amended income tax return, they will be required to request both a tax return transcript and tax account transcript.

It is no longer sufficient to provide a photocopy of the federal income tax return. The US Department of Education is requiring applicants to provide a copy of their federal income tax returns directly from the IRS to prevent fraud. In the past, some applicants have supplied false copies of their federal income tax returns during verification.

What if I am unable or choose not to use the IRS DRT?

If you are not able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you can submit a copy of your Tax Return Transcript to our office. You are not required to use the DRT and can submit a Tax Return Transcript if you prefer or if you experience any issues using the DRT.

How do I request a Tax Return Transcript?

To request a Tax Return Transcript, please visit www.irs.gov and choose "Get a Tax Transcript" from the Tools Menu. You may also contact the IRS at 1-800-908-9946. To view “Get Transcript FAQs” go to https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript-faqs

I amended my taxes using the federal 1040X form. What documents do I need to submit?

  • If you successfully transferred your income tax information into the FAFSA using the IRS data retrieval tool, then please submit a signed and dated copy of your 1040X form or a 2016 Record of Account tax form obtained from the IRS.
  • If you did not use the IRS data retrieval tool in the FAFSA, you will need to submit a signed and dated copy of the 1040X form and also the IRS Tax Return transcript.
     (or you can submit the IRS Record of Account transcript along with  the Tax Return transcript.)

Is there any instance when I should NOT use the IRS DRT?

Yes.  If you filed as “Married – Filing a Joint Return” but you indicated on the FAFSA that you are widowed or separated, do not use the DRT. You will need to submit an IRS tax return transcript and all W-2 forms for a separation of income.

Am I eligible to use DRT?

Most students and parents can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing the verification process (or when updating your FAFSA). However, several instances may make you ineligible to use the DRT. Ineligible statuses include:

  • Married filing separately
  • Filing Puerto Rican or foreign returns
  • Victims of Identity Theft

If any of these unique filing statuses pertain to you, please read the instructions under the question that addresses that topic.

I filed as “Married filing separately”. How do I verify my tax information since I cannot use the DRT?

  • An IRS tax return transcript is required for all tax filers- one for each parent
  • If “Married filing separately” is the filing status but one spouse did not file, submit all W-2s for the non-filing spouse if the spouse worked at all in 2015
  • Submit the IRS Statement of Non-filing Letter for all non-tax filers

I filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return. What documents are required for verification?

  • A copy of the tax return transcript equivalent that was filed with the taxing authority of that country, or
  • A signed copy of the tax return filed with the taxing authority only if the tax filer cannot obtain a free copy of a tax transcript from the taxing authority

I was a victim of identity theft. What documents can I submit for verification?

Victims of identity theft who cannot get a return transcript or use the DRT must submit a Tax Return DataBase View (TRDBV) transcript as well as a statement they have signed and dated indicating that they were victims of tax-related identity theft and that the IRS has been made aware of it. They do this by calling the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized

Unit (IPSU) at 800-908-4490. After the IPSU authenticates the tax filer’s identity, they can ask the IRS to mail them the TRDBV transcript. The TRDBV can be used for verification.

What if I have lost a W-2 form? 

If you are missing a W-2, contact your employer for a replacement copy.

In some instances such as self-employment, you may not receive a W-2 for earnings reportable on the tax return. In such circumstances, you must include a written description of the amount and source of income with your verification material and include any supporting documentation you may have regarding this income.

What if I have requested a tax filing extension and still have not filed taxes?

Please keep in mind that the 2018-2019 FAFSA asks for 2016 income tax information. If you or your parents have not filed your 2016 income taxes, please file your taxes with the IRS and contact Mercyhurst University Student Financial Services.

Why did my financial aid change after the verification process was completed?

Mercyhurst University is required to correct any conflicting information found during the verification process. If the corrections impact the student’s financial aid eligibility, the student’s financial aid awards must be adjusted accordingly.

What happens if I do not provide the information being requested?

If a student/family does not provide the verification materials, the verification is incomplete.  Mercyhurst would be unable to award federal title IV aid until verification is completed.

What if I reviewed the frequently asked questions and did not see an answer to my question?

If you do not find the answers to your questions, please feel free to contact Student Financial Services at Mercyhurst Main
(814)824-2288 or the Mercyhurst North East office at 814-725-6265. You can also submit question via email to the Student Financial Services Office.  Email Mercyhurst main campus at sfs@mercyhurst.edu or all other campuses at nesfs@mercyhurst.edu