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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
While there are several types of verification which may require different documents, the most common type requires the following forms:
We may request additional or alternative documentation based on the verification process for which you were selected.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
If any of these unique filing statuses pertain to you, please read the instructions under the question that addresses that topic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or all other campuses at email@example.com.