What is verification?
Verification is a process in which information on a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is reviewed by a school for accuracy and completeness. Each year, the Federal U.S. Department of Education selects certain applicants for verification. The verification process requires the Financial Aid Office to confirm the data supplied by the student and/or parent(s). Although the College cannot determine who will be selected for verification each year, students should anticipate selection. If your FAFSA is selected for verification, immediately submit all requested documentation to our office for review. Failure to provide required documentation by stated deadlines may negatively impact your financial aid award package.
How will I know if I am selected for verification?
Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will indicate whether or not your file has been selected for verification. The SAR is typically accessed via a link sent to you by the U.S. Department of Education after you file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are selected for verification, there will be an asterisk* next to your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure on your SAR. You will also receive notification via the Message Center from the Financial Aid Office alerting you to check your ‘To Do List’ of our Student Information System to determine what documentation you will be required to submit before your financial aid application is fully processed.
Should I send documentation even if my application has not been selected for verification?
Students should not send any financial documentation unless requested to do so. VHCC only verifies the FAFSA information of selected students or in special cases when inconsistent information is found. However, the Financial Aid Office must review all information in its possession, even for students not selected for verification. Sending in information that is not required could result in unnecessary delays in the disbursement of your financial aid. If you need to make corrections to your FAFSA, you may do so by logging into your application online.
Many students selected for verification are chosen randomly. However, you are more likely to be selected for verification if the data you provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was inconsistent, if the FAFSA you submitted was incomplete, or if your FAFSA contained estimated information.
If I am selected for verification, what do I need to do?
If your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was selected, participation in the verification process is mandatory and must occur before need-based Federal and State student financial aid will be awarded and/or disbursed. Students must submit the required documentation to verify the information on the FAFSA. Students may log into their MyVHCC account, Student Center, To Do List to review any outstanding requirements.
Please note that during the process of verification, new or additional information may be required in order to clarify inconsistencies. The Financial Aid Office will contact you if additional clarification is needed. It is important to respond to any information requests immediately.
Per regulations, VHCC can no longer accept copies of tax returns for verification purposes, except in rare, special circumstances. Therefore, if tax and income data are requested, students should either update the FAFSA application by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool within the online FAFSA website –or- provide an official IRS Tax Return Transcript. A free IRS Tax Return Transcript may be obtained directly from the IRS by online request, by calling 1-800-908-9946, or by completing and mailing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, selecting the “Return Transcript” option. Further information about IRS tax return transcripts can be found at www.IRS.gov.
Verification will be completed when all required information is received by the VHCC Financial Aid Office. Your financial aid will not show as anticipated or be disbursed until all submitted documentation has been verified by the VHCC Financial Aid Office, and the U.S. Department of Education has received and accepted any changes to the original FAFSA data.
IRS Data Retrieval is an option within the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This function may be used to import income and tax information already within the Federal Internal Revenue Service database directly into the FAFSA. Students and parents may elect to use IRS Data Retrieval when initially filing a FAFSA. They also may file the FAFSA with estimated data, later utilizing IRS Data Retrieval to update the FAFSA after their Federal tax returns have been processed.
If a student/parent changes information on the FAFSA after using the IRS Data Retrieval, this information will not be acceptable for the purposes of official verification and an official IRS Tax Return Transcript or use of IRS Data Retrieval without subsequent edits will be required.
Use of the IRS DRT is optional, but recommended as it eliminates the possibility of errors on certain data elements. It is a secure way to populate or update FAFSA information in the most efficient manner possible. Use of IRS Data Retrieval may mitigate processing delays which impact receipt of financial aid packages in a timely manner.
When is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) available for use?
The IRS DRT is only available once a Federal income tax return has been filed and processed by the IRS. In general, income and tax information will be available for import by the IRS Data Retrieval tool within 2-3 weeks if a Federal return is filed electronically. Federal income tax returns submitted by regular post may need to wait 8-11 weeks for tax information to be available via the IRS DRT.
Filers who owe taxes may experience longer wait times before they may access the IRS DRT in the FAFSA, particularly during peak tax filing season.
Are there filers who should not attempt to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) if selected for verification?
- Any tax filer whose marital status has changed from the time s/he has filed the FAFSA to present. Use of the IRS DRT will not supply enough information in these cases to accurately complete verification.
- Filers who were married the previous calendar year but now are separated/divorced should also submit all W-2 forms if selected for verification
- Filers whose tax filing and marital statuses are inconsistent with reported household information on the FAFSA may be required to send additional documentation.
- Biological/adoptive parents of a dependent student who are unmarried, but live together
- Married tax filers who…
- file Married-Separately
- file Head of Household (meeting the special requirements regarding timing and maintenance of a separate household from their spouse). Additional documentation of these circumstances will be requested.
- Filers who have performed a direct rollover of their IRAs in the previous calendar year. Use of the IRS DRT may make it appear that they have a large amount of untaxed income at their disposal. Filers in these circumstances should submit an IRS Tax Return Transcript with the word “Rollover” next to the “Total IRA Distributions” field and a 1099R or other supplemental documentation from the companies verifying the transaction.
- Filers who have accomplished a conversion to a Roth IRA in the previous calendar year. Use of the IRS DRT may make it appear that they have more accessible taxable income. Filers in these circumstances should submit an IRS Tax Return Transcript with the word “Rollover” next to the “Total IRA Distributions” field and a 1099R or other supplemental documentation from the companies verifying the transaction.
What is an IRS Tax Return Transcript? Is this the same as a copy of a tax return?
An IRS Tax Return Transcript is NOT the same as a copy of the 1040 Federal income tax return. Federal aid regulations prohibit the use of a copy of a signed tax return as part of the verification process, with a few, rare exceptions. If you cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval function within the FAFSA, and must supply income and tax information for verification, you can obtain a free Federal Tax Return Transcript directly from the IRS by online request, by calling 1-800-908-9946, or by completing and mailing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, selecting the “Return Transcript” option. Note that the IRS will quickly supply filers with an online PDF version of tax return transcripts for previously-processed returns so long as filers are able to answer security questions correctly. Further information about IRS tax return transcripts can be found at www.IRS.gov.
Can a Tax Account Transcript verify my FAFSA data?
No. An IRS Tax Account Transcript has fewer data elements than an IRS Tax Return Transcript. For verification purposes, the only documentation allowed in lieu of IRS Data Retrieval with unchanged data is an IRS Tax Return Transcript, unless there is an allowed special circumstance (see below). You can obtain a free IRS Tax Return Transcript directly from the IRS by online request, by calling 1-800-908-9946, or by completing and mailing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, selecting the “Return Transcript” option. Further information about IRS tax return transcripts can be found at www.IRS.gov.
When do I need to submit the verification documents?
The VHCC Financial Aid Office will not disburse Federal Title IV or need-based institutional aid until the verification process has been completed. Thus, it is very important for students to submit required documentation as soon as possible. For students whose applications are selected for verification, financial aid awards are considered tentative until the required evaluation related to the verification process is completed.
Students selected for verification must submit all documentation to the VHCC Financial Aid Office by the last day of the student’s attendance for the aid year, meaning the student must have an official FAFSA results submitted to the college and comply with all needed processes and documents.
During the verification process, information is compared to the original data on the FAFSA and corrections may be made. These corrections may lower or raise the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure. Because financial need is determined by the EFC, aid eligibility may be impacted when changes occur during the verification process. If the verification process is completed after a student is initially awarded financial aid, changes to the original aid package may occur. The Financial Aid Office will notify you of any changes to aid via your student email account. In some cases, when financial aid has already been disbursed but the EFC increases after a late verification process, certain forms of aid must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education.
What should I do if I have been selected for verification but have an extension to file my tax return?
Students and/or parents who are required to submit income and tax information for the purposes of verification will only be able to access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) or IRS Tax Return Transcript once their Federal income tax returns have been processed by the IRS. If you filed an extension, the following documentation is needed:
- Unchanged IRS DRT data (IRS Request Flag 02);
- A copy of the IRS Tax Return Transcript; or
- An acceptable alternative tax transcript.
If the tax filer gets an IRS-approved extension beyond the automatic six-month extension, the school must collect all of the following alternative documentation to complete verification for the taxpayer:
- A copy of IRS Form 4868, “Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Tax Return” that the individual filed with the IRS for the tax year (IRS Record of Account transcript can be used instead of 4868);
- A copy of an unexpired IRS approval of an extension beyond the automatic six-month extension if the individual requested an additional tax filing extension for the tax year;
- A copy of the IRS Verification of Nonfiling Letter, or confirmation of nonfiling status from another relevant taxing authority, dated on or after October 1, 2019;
- A copy of a W-2 or equivalent document for each source of employment income received for the tax year; and
- If self-employed, a signed statement certifying the amount of the individual’s AGI and U.S. income tax paid for the tax year.
What if I am selected for verification but will not file a Federal Income Tax Return?
Whether or not you are required to file a Federal income tax return depends on many factors, including your filing status, citizenship, income amount, income sources, age, etc. This Internal Revenue Service (IRS) link may be used to determine whether or not you are required to file. The main IRS website may be used to obtain directions, forms, and answers to frequently asked questions. Further questions should be directed to the IRS or to a qualified tax professional.
Students and/or parents whose income falls below the minimum filing threshold for a given tax year should complete the required Verification Worksheet and submit all W-2 forms and/or other statements of income. If evidence suggests that a student or parent should have filed, but did not, this represents conflicting information which must be resolved.
Students and/or parents who file returns outside the United States should review the Special Cases FAQ below…
Are there Special Cases in which other documentation may be accepted in lieu of an IRS Tax Return Transcript or use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
If a student and/or parent is able to obtain alternate official documentation (such as the “Return Transcript for Tax Payer”) directly from the IRS that includes all income and tax information for the tax year to be verified, AND if the VHCC Financial Aid Office judges this alternate documentation to be official and complete, such documentation may be used in rare circumstances to complete the verification process in lieu of the IRS Tax Return Transcript.
The VHCC Financial Aid Office is aware of only the following circumstances in which students and parents who have filed returns cannot use IRS Data Retrieval, nor can they submit an IRS Tax Return Transcript:
- Cases of Identity Theft: The student and/or parent should submit…
- A signed copy of the paper Federal income tax return AND…
- A copy of IRS Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit,” –or- a signed & date statement of the IRS’ investigation of the matter, -or- a police report.
- Amended Returns: Students/parents filing an amended Federal income tax return should submit…
- an IRS Tax Return Transcript (that will only include information from the original tax return and does not have to be signed), or any other IRS tax transcript(s) that include all of the income and tax information required to be verified; and
- a signed copy of the IRS Form 1040X that was filed with the IRS.
- Filing of Tax Returns outside the US: When students/ parents are not obligated to file US income tax returns and ONLY file abroad…
- Citizens of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam should submit a signed copy of their commonwealth’s/ territory’s tax return (e.g. the Planilla de Contribución Sobre Ingresos for residents of PR).
- Citizens of the Freely Associated States should submit signed copies of Wage and Tax Statements from each employer –and- a signed statement identifying all income and taxes for the tax year.
- Citizens of foreign countries should submit…
- A signed & dated copy of the foreign tax return with an English translation of all pertinent fields –and- a monetary conversion of foreign currency to US dollars at the exchange rate in effect when you originally filed your FAFSA, –OR-
- A signed statement identifying all income and taxes paid for the tax year (for foreign citizens not obligated to file a foreign tax return)