When applying for financial aid, you are submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. In any given year, some filings are selected for FAFSA verification.
Verification is the process of confirming the information that you and your student provided on the FAFSA, similar to an audit on your federal taxes. The FAFSA is managed by the US Department of Education, and sometimes they will be the ones who select some FAFSAs (sometimes randomly) each year to be verified. Sometimes, the colleges themselves will select a FAFSA to be verified.
An important thing to remember is that your student will not receive any financial aid until the verification process has been completed. The financial aid office will be the one contacting the student, and they will receive all the necessary supporting documents.
What documents will you need to provide?
It depends on your personal situation, but in general, possible documents you will need to include are:
- Verification worksheets provided by their college
- Income tax transcript – a line-by-line accounting of a tax return including applicable schedules provided by the IRS
Federal tax return – the original documents filed like 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ
- Other specific documents to confirm numbers on the FAFSA like proof of a sibling’s college registration or W-2s or 1099 forms
- Signed copy of any amended tax return 1040X if applicable
Tips to help you keep your sanity:
You need to pay attention and respond quickly if verification is requested. Students need to be vigilant in checking their emails and reviewing their Student Aid Report (SAR). The information will be coming to them even if the parents filled out the form. If a verification request is made, students can’t simply say they didn’t see the email. Colleges will not accept those kinds of excuses. Also, if a student delays in responding, financial aid may be given to someone else.
Income tax transcripts can be obtained from the IRS by either immediate download from the website or sent to your client by mail or fax. We recommend visiting the www.IRS.gov website and clicking “Get a Tax Transcript” and downloading the transcript there for the fastest turnaround.
If you decide not to provide the requested documentation, or miss the window for submitting your documentation, be aware the financial aid offer will be withdrawn.
If you did not file a federal tax return, you may be asked to verify that a tax filing was not required. The financial aid office will need a signed statement from the student or parent saying they were not required to file a federal tax return. You must include in that statement a list of all income and employers during the period in question as well as any W-2 forms.
Remember that you haven’t done anything wrong if you are selected for FAFSA verification! Some verifications are chosen at random. Others are just trying to clear up any inconsistencies. Some small colleges even verify 100% of financial aid applicants. Verification is intended to clear up the accuracy of the information submitted by you and your student, and hopefully ensure a seamless financial aid process moving forward.
Don’t worry. Although 1 in 4 FAFSAs may be selected for verification, the Expected Family Contribution is rarely changed. If it does change, you can arrange to speak with your child’s financial aid office to find out about the next steps, and possibly try to appeal.
Did you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
It’s possible that you won’t need to verify your income or tax information if you used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to complete your FAFSA! If, however, you:
- Used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, but reported rollovers or
- Used the IRS Data Retrieval tool, but amended your tax return
Organizing Your College Search
At College Aid Pro™, we believe that navigating the financial aid process should be easy for families. Our goal is to help empower you and your college-bound student with the education, technology, and support you need to minimize the cost of college. Our ongoing events and webinars cover items like FAFSA verification, financial aid appeals, applying for financial aid, and more.
If you are looking for help organizing your college search, financial aid information, and application deadlines, we encourage you to sign up for a free MyCAP account today! With MyCAP you’ll be able to search the actual cost of colleges across the country, access expert advice, and more. Register by clicking here.