Verification

The Verification Process

What is Verification?
You finally submitted the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You think everything is going smoothly until you receive notice (via your Student Aid Report) that you have been selected for FAFSA verification. What does this mean?

Verification is a process used to verify certain information on the FAFSA to ensure its accuracy. Some students are selected for verification by the U.S. Department of Education. Others are selected by the school. Usually only a certain percentage of students are selected for verification (but keep in mind that some schools choose to do 100% verification, that means every student file is verified).

Why is your file being verified?
There are several possibilities for being selected for FAFSA verification. Keep in mind that more possibilities exist, but the following are the main reasons for being selected:

  • You were selected randomly.
  • There was a drastic change in the information originally provided.
  • You have information that appears to conflict.
  • The submitted FAFSA application has incomplete data.
  • The data on the FAFSA application appears to contradict itself.
  • The FAFSA application has estimated information on it.


What documents are needed for verification?
After you receive notification that you have been selected for verification, you should first read any messages from the Department of Education appearing on the Student Aid Report. Contact the Financial Aid Office if you have any questions. Next, you should collect copies of documents that the Financial Aid Office requests. These documents may include a Marriage Certificate, a Social Security Card, an Alien Registration Card, a Verification Packet and a IRS Federal Transcript. The type of documents required will vary from student to student, and not all students selected for FAFSA verification will have to submit the same documents. Once you have collected all the required proof documents, take them or fax them to your Financial Aid Office. Do not turn in any documentation that was not requested. For example, if you turn in too many tax schedules and it shows information that the FAFSA has not asked for, the Financial Aid Office will be obligated to use that additional information in calculating need. Only turn in what is requested.

If you are selected for verification, you will receive an email to your CPCC email account requesting the documentation needed to complete the process.  You can also view what documents are being requested on your MyCollege account.

Documentation of Food Stamps
As part of the verification process, we are required to collect additional information to verify total amount of food stamp assistance you and your spouse (if applicable) received.  This amount includes benefits for yourself as well as any dependent household members.  An award letter or a written letter from the Department of Social Services is acceptable documentation.

Documentation of Child Support Paid
This documentation is requested when a student (or spouse or parent) lists on verification worksheet or the FAFSA that they are paying or receiving child support.

Types of Documentation:

  • Custody Agreement that shows amount to be paid or received.
  • Documentation from Division of Family Services.
  • If there is a verbal agreement for payment of child support and there is no legal documentation, the student can provide a letter written by the individual paying the support (if student is receiving) or by individual receiving the support (if student is paying). The letter should be signed. We recommend that the letter be notarized.
  • We can also accept canceled checks or money order receipts for the whole receipts for the total monthly amount.


Common additional documentation requests:

  • Child support paid/received
  • Documentation of food stamps received
  • Student/Parent Asset Form.  The parent/student asset information is requested when cash, business, and investment information is missing from the asset section of the FAFSA.
  • Verification of Number in College
  • Verification of Household Size
  • Income Verification Form
  • Proof of Orphan or Ward of the Court Status Form
  • Parental Information
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Your Verification Form

Additional forms may also be requested to complete the verification process.

You may choose to change your information by going to www.fafsa.ed.gov and making a correction to your FAFSA.

What happens if there are discrepancies or conflicting information?
After you turn in all required documents, the Financial Aid Office will compare them with your Student Aid Report. If errors are found, corrections will be made. If the errors are significant enough to change the amount of financial aid that you were awarded, the Financial Aid Office will send you a revised award notification showing increased or decreased amounts.

If you are selected for FAFSA verification, you need to return the information and requested documentation as soon as possible. Processing usually takes two to three weeks, but it can take longer during the peak season. Because verification must be completed in advance of disbursing any money from any financial aid program, it is vital to send complete and correct information as quickly as possible. Above all else, don't be upset because you were selected for verification. This is a process that is required by the federal government. The Financial Aid Office may even discover errors in your report that could actually increase your eligibility for more aid.

What documents are usually used to resolve conflicting information?

  • Income documents, i.e. W-2s, 1099s, Schedule C, etc.
  • Assets Form
  • Documentation of combat pay received that was included in adjusted gross income on federal tax returns
  • Marital status documents, i.e. marriage certificate, divorce decree, documentation of separation
  • Education and non-education veteran benefits documentation
  • Amended tax return
  • Documentation of non-filing status
  • Documentation of at least half-time enrollment status in a degree seeking program for a dependent at another institution

How do I show documentation of my marital status?
This documentation is requested most frequently when the information on federal taxes, FAFSA, and/or Verification Worksheet Form does not match.

  • If student is married: Documentation of marriage certificate
  • If student is divorced: Documentation of divorce decree.
  • If student is separated:  Documentation of separate residences, such as copies of individual leases for each spouse.  We will also review documentation of separate utilities. The documentation dates must be from the same utility and time frame and have the individuals' names on it.


HELPFUL HINTS ABOUT MARITAL STATUS
A student cannot change their marital status on the FAFSA after the date the student filed.  Marital status will only be updated if documentation is provided that an error was made on the date the student filed. Marital status will not be updated if the student's status changed after the date he/she initially filed the FAFSA.

Failure to meet the verification deadlines may result in certain types of aid not being offered. In addition, delays in sending documentation may result in the student not having aid by the time their bills are due each semester. In this case, the student is obligated to pay the account balance on the student account, or their classes could be canceled.


Once verification has been completed students will be notified of an original financial aid award package or changes to a financial aid award package by email. The student will be instructed to log into their MyCollege account to review the original or revised financial aid award package and take any appropriate action as instructed.

Important Tips for Completing the Verification Process

  • Complete the requested Verification Worksheet in full: Do not leave any questions blank. All questions must have an answer even if it is a "0". Be sure all required signatures have been provided.
  • Be sure that you have used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool which allows you to link to the IRS from the FAFSA and retrieve tax information directly from the IRS to populate the FAFSA tax return questions. If you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you will not have to submit tax transcripts from the IRS. You can log into your FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov and make a correction to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update your tax information.
  • If you do not, or cannot, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you must submit the signed IRS Tax Transcript. To request a IRS Tax Transcript, please review the following information below under the IRS Data Retrieval Process section.
  • Be sure the IRS Tax Transcript is signed. We cannot accept e-file authorizations.
  • If you will not and are not required to file taxes, be sure to submit all W2's to document earnings from work.


Once verification begins, you may be asked to submit additional documentation. If this occurs, an email will be sent to the student's CPCC email account and all requested documents can be viewed on the student's MyCollege account.

IRS Data Retrieval Process
The US Department of Education has recently enhanced the FAFSA filing process to allow you and your parents to retrieve tax data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows you and your parents to upload your filed 2013 federal tax return data directly to your FAFSA.  We strongly encourage you to use this tool during the initial filing or when submitting correction  to your FAFSA.

If you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, we highly recommend using the tool for several reasons:

  1. It’s the easiest way to provide your tax data.
  2. It’s the best way of ensuring that your FAFSA has accurate tax information.
  3. You won’t need to provide tax documents to the College.

If you do not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to provide tax information, you will be required to obtain an official tax transcript from the IRS.

Does everyone need to use the IRS Data Retrieval process?

You are not required to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool, but if you have been selected for verification, and you do not use this feature, or you are unable to use this feature, you must provide us with a tax transcript from the IRS. Since the 2012-2013 academic year, we are unable to accept a photocopy of your federal tax return.

Eligibility

You and your parents are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if you:

  • Filed your federal tax return with the IRS.
  • Have a valid social security number.
  • Have a Federal Student Aid PIN (if you do not have a PIN, you will be given the option to apply for one www.pin.ed.gov ).


You and your parents are not eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if:

  • Your marital status changed after December 31st.
  • You filed married filing separately.
  • You filed an amended return
  • You filed a foreign tax return.
  • You filed a tax return using a Tax ID Number (TIN).
  • The home address on the FAFSA does not match the address on the tax return.


When can I begin using the IRS Data Retrieval tool?

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is available as soon as two weeks after you have submitted your taxes, if you file your taxes electronically. If you submit your tax return in paper form it takes about eight weeks for the information to be available.

You can also view step by step instructions by clicking here.

Tax transcripts

If you are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool available at FAFSA on the Web, and you have been selected for verification, you will need to obtain a "Tax Transcript" from the IRS.  Please do not submit copies of your federal tax returns unless specifically asked to do so.

There are four ways to request your tax return transcript: online request (get online), online request (get by mail), by phone, or by mail/fax. Please make sure you request a Tax Return Transcript. Do not request a Tax Account Transcript or Record of Account because they cannot be used for financial aid verification purposes. To order a Tax Return Transcript--

Online Request - Get Transcript ONLINE:

  • Go to www.irs.gov
  • Click "Get Transcript of your Tax Records"
  • Click “Get Transcript Online"
  • You must create or reactivate your account. Enter User ID
  • Select the reason for requesting "Higher Education/Student Aid"
  • Select the year and print.


Online Request - Get Transcript by MAIL:

  • Go to www.irs.gov
  • Click “Order a Return or Account Transcript” located under the Tools heading
  • Click “Order a Transcript” under Step 3
  • Enter your SSN, Date of Birth, Street Address, and Zip Code
    • Use the address currently on file with the IRS. Generally this will be the address that was listed on the latest tax return filed. However, if an address change has been completed through the US Postal Service, the IRS may have the updated address on file.
    • Click “Continue”
    • Select “Return Transcript”
    • Enter “2013” for the 2014-2015 FAFSA; “2014” for the 2015-2016 FAFSA.
    • Click Continue
    • If successfully validated, you can expect to receive a paper IRS Tax Return Transcript at the address included in your online request, within 5 to 10 days from the time the on-line request was successfully transmitted to the IRS.


Telephone Request:

  • Call the IRS Transcript Order Line at 1-800-908-9946 (7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.)
  • Enter and verify Social Security number.
  • Enter and verify numbers in street address.
    • Use the address currently on file with the IRS. Generally this will be the address that was listed on the latest tax return filed. However, if an address change has been completed through the US Postal Service, the IRS may have the updated address on file.
    • Select option “2” to request a Tax Return Transcript.
    • Enter “2013” for the 2014-2015 FAFSA; “2014” for the 2015-2016 FAFSA.
    • If successfully validated, you can expect to receive a paper IRS Tax Return Transcript at the address that was used in your telephone request, within 5 to 10 days from the time the IRS receives the request.


By Mail-Paper Request Form - IRS Form 4560T-EZ:

  • IRS Form 4506T-EZ should be used instead of IRS Form 4506-T because it is sufficient to request an IRS Tax Return Transcript.
  • Download at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506tez.pdf.
  • Complete lines 1 – 4, following the instructions on page 2 of the form.  Note that line 3 should be the most current address as filed with the IRS. It is the address where the IRS Tax Return Transcript will be sent. If the address has recently changed, include the address listed on the latest tax return filed on Line 4. However, if an address change has been completed through the US Postal Service, the IRS may have the updated address on file.
  • Line 5 provides tax filers with the option to have their IRS Tax Return Transcript mailed directly to a third party by the IRS.UWM prefers you have the transcript mailed to you and that you then submit it to our office. You will need to make sure the student’s name and student ID # are on the transcript.
  • On line 6, enter “2013” for the 2014-2015 FAFSA; “2014” for the 2015-2016 FAFSA.
  • The tax filers (or spouse if requesting information from a joint tax return) must sign and date the form and enter their telephone number. Only one signature is required to request a transcript for a joint return.
  • Mail or fax the completed IRS Form 4506T-EZ to the appropriate address (or FAX number) provided on page 2 of Form 4506T-EZ.
  • You can expect to receive your transcript within 5 to 10 days from the time the IRS receives and processes your signed request. NOTE: Processing form 4506T-EZ means verifying/validating the information provided on the form. If any information does not match the IRS records, the IRS will notify the tax filer that it was not able to provide the transcript.


Amended Tax Return

Neither an IRS Tax Return Transcript nor an IRS Tax Account Transcript, either individually or together, provide all of the information needed for verification when the tax filer files an IRS Form 1040X “Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return”. Therefore, when an institution is aware that the tax filer filed, or will file, an amended tax return with the IRS, it must obtain signed copies of both the original tax return or the IRS Tax Return Transcript and the IRS Form 1040X that were filed with the IRS. The College will use the information from both forms to complete verification.

Other Tax Returns

Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam

In cases where the tax filer filed a tax return with Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or Guam, a signed copy of that filed tax return is acceptable documentation. The institution would use income and tax information that corresponds most closely to the information that would be reported on an IRS tax return.

Freely Associated States (Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau and Federated States of Micronesia)

For residents of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, or the Federated States of Micronesia, a copy of the individual’s Wage and Tax Statement from each employer that provided such a statement and a signed statement identifying all of the individual’s income and taxes for the tax year is acceptable.

Foreign Countries

In cases where the tax filer filed a tax return or a similar document(s) with a foreign country, signed copies of that tax return or other documentation, using income and tax information (converted to U.S. dollars) that corresponds most closely to the income information reported on an IRS tax return is acceptable.

In cases where an individual from a foreign country, under that country’s applicable government agency rules, is not required to file an income tax return, he or she can provide the institution with a signed statement certifying all of the individual’s income and taxes paid for the tax year.

Deadlines

We do not usually offer a student financial aid until the verification process has been completed. Therefore, the sooner you submit the materials requested, the sooner we will be able to offer you financial aid. In rare cases it is possible to be selected for verification after you have been offered financial aid. In this case you have 30 days to provide the requested documents. We reserve the option of cancelling a financial aid offer if the requested materials are not submitted within this time frame. If you need an extension of the deadline, you should contact us.

Non Tax Filers

If you or your parents are not required to file a federal tax return, there is a place on the Verification Worksheet to indicate this. You must provide us with a detailed list of your income in the previous year. If the income was earned in foreign currency you must convert the currency to US dollars as of the date you completed the original FAFSA.

If you indicate you had no income in the previous year, you may be asked to document how it is you were able to support yourself and/or submit an IRS tax transcript showing you did not file a federal tax return.  You will also be required to bring in all of your W2 Forms.

Untaxed Income

Some types of income are not reported on the tax return, but still must be included on the FAFSA. The most common is what you contributed to a tax deferred retirement account. This is just what you contributed, not what you employer contributed This value is reported to you on the W-2 form you received from your employer. Other types of untaxed income that must be reported on the FAFSA, and therefore, on the verification worksheet are workers’ compensation, disability, etc. Also include the first-time homebuyer tax credit from IRS Form 1040—line 67. Don’t include student aid, earned income credit, additional child tax credit, welfare payments, untaxed Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Workforce Investment Act educational benefits, on-base military housing or a military housing allowance, combat pay, benefits from flexible spending arrangements (e.g., cafeteria plans), foreign income exclusion or credit for federal tax on special fuels.

Corrected Tax Returns

Completing a federal income tax return can be confusing, and it isn't always done correctly on the first try. If you filed your federal tax return incorrectly you will need to submit an amended tax return. When you submit an amended tax return, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool no longer provides the correct data on the FAFSA. You will need to provide us with two IRS generated documents. 1. The Tax Return Transcript and 2. the Tax Account Transcript. We will need both documents, as well as the verification worksheet, to complete the verification process.

Corrections vs Updates

When you have completed your taxes for the base year, you are encouraged to correct the FAFSA with the actual information from your tax return. However, some of the data fields on the FAFSA can only be changed if, when you completed the FAFSA, the information was incorrect. For example, if you were married on the day you completed the FAFSA, but you indicated that you were single on the form, you can make this correction (we may request additional information). However, if you were single on the day you completed the FAFSA, and you have since married, you may not make that change, as that is considered an update. The same is true for answers to asset questions and questions regarding the household size.