FINANCIAL AID OFFICE

VERIFICATION

The Department of Education (ED) describes Verification as:  "The process your school uses to confirm that the data reported on your FAFSA is accurate. Your school has the authority [by federal regulation] to contact you for documentation that supports income and other information that you reported."  In signing the FAFSA on paper or electronically with a PIN, "you agree, if asked, to provide information that will verify the accuracy of your completed form.  This information may include U.S. or state income tax forms that you filed are or are required to file."

This section will review the following:

  1. What is the purpose of verification?
  2. Who is selected?
  3. How am I notified?
  4. Why was I selected?
  5. What documents are required?
  6. How do I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
  7. Why are transcripts required instead of tax returns?
  8. What is the deadline and what consequences are there for not submitting the documents?
  9. How long does the entire process take?
  10. Can I receive federal aid before submitting the documents?
  11. How can I avoid this in the future?

ALERT:  Effective for the 2013-14 academic year, federal tax returns (1040s) can no longer be accepted by the Financial Aid Office, per federal regulation.  Students and/or parents that are required to submit tax information must either use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when filing the FAFSA or request a Tax Return Transcript directly from the IRS.  Tax return transcripts can be requested online, through the U.S. Mail using Form 4506-T or by calling the IRS at 1-800-908-9946.  Once the tax return transcript is received, submit a copy to the Financial Aid Office.  The only exception to this requirement is for victims of identity theft.

Tax Return Transcript
Correct
Tax Return
Wrong
Account Transcript
Wrong


What is the purpose of verification? top
Verification is intended to improve the accuracy of the information submitted on the FAFSA, thereby, adding integrity to the Federal Student Aid programs.

Who is selected? top
Approximately 30% of all students are chosen to go through the verification process (true at all colleges and universities nationwide). Some students are chosen randomly while others are chosen due to discrepant information provided on the FAFSA. Some students are selected after they have received an award letter.  It is not unusual for a student to go through the process several years in a row.

How am I notified? top
New students are notified in writing at their permanent address. The notification details all documents that must be submitted. Returning students are notified via their Buffalo State email account and instructed to review their Banner Eligibility Requirements. Students should refer to the Check Requirements Using Banner guide for assistance.

Be advised that the notification on the Student Aid Report that you have been selected for verification does not necessarily mean that Buffalo State will require verification documentation. Please wait to be contacted by the Financial Aid Office before submitted verification documents.

Why was I selected? top
The vast majority of selections are done on a random basis.  Applications that contain apparent errors will also be selected. Examples of errors include:

  • The income and/or assets reported for student and parent(s) is identical
  • The reported taxes paid amount exceeds a typical amount
  • You requested a loss of income adjustment in a prior year
What documents are required? top

Dependent Students
  1. Student's federal tax transcript.*  If the student worked but did not file taxes, they must also submit their W-2 statement(s). 
  2. Parents' federal tax transcript *
    1. Parents that have partnership or S-Corp income must also submit IRS Schedule E in addition to the tax transcript.
  3. Copies of all parent W-2 forms
  4. Other Income Explanation (if applicable): Parents or students that have income listed on their tax return as "Other Income" must submit a statement or documentation explaining what the source of the income is (e.g.: is it income from work?). 
    1. For example, gambling winnings or debt cancelations are often included under "Other Income"; the Financial Aid Office needs to be able to distinguish what type of income this is.
  5. Completed verification worksheet.  See an example of a properly completed verification worksheet for a dependent student.
Independent students:
  1. Student's federal tax transcript.*
    1. Students (or spouses) that have partnership or S-Corp income must also submit IRS Schedule E in addition to the tax transcript. 
  2. Spouse's federal tax transcript (if married) *
  3. Copies of all student and spouse W-2 forms
  4. Other Income Explanation (if applicable): Parents or students that have income listed on their tax return as "Other Income" must submit a statement or documentation explaining what the source of the income is (e.g.: is it income from work?).
    1. For example, gambling winnings or debt cancelations are often included under "Other Income"; the Financial Aid Office needs to be able to distinguish what type of income this is. 
  5. Completed verification worksheet. See an example of a properly completed verification worksheet for an independent student.
  * Students and parents that transferred their income data using the IRS Data Retrieval may not be required to submit the federal tax transcript.
  * For Victims of Identify Theft that are unable to obtain their transcript, please review your options here.

How Do I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool? top 
Students and/or parents may elect to make a correction to their processed FAFSA to link to the IRS instead of requesting an IRS Tax Return Transcript. Individuals that choose this option should notify the FAO to ensure the correct FAFSA transaction is reviewed. To link to the IRS, students log into www.fafsa.gov and Make a Correction to a processed FAFSA. Under the income sections for students and parents there are questions that enable the use of the IRS DRT.

Watch a video on how to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool!



Why are tax transcripts required instead of tax returns? top 
The U.S. Department of Education has mandated that tax transcripts produced by the IRS must be used. Students and parents that use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will typically not be requested to supply a tax transcript.  Transcripts requested from the IRS are mailed to the tax filer not Buffalo State.   Once the transcript is received, a copy must be either mailed, scanned/emailed, faxed or dropped off to the financial aid office.  Transcripts are double-sided!  Be sure both sides are copied to avoid processing delays.

What is the deadline and what are the consequences if I don't submit the documents? top 
The deadline to submit verification documents is dependent on the type of federal student aid the students is eligible to receive (see chart below).  If the deadline is not met, the student becomes ineligible for that particular aid program.  This cannot be appealed and is a federal requirement.

Federal Aid Program Verification Deadline
Direct Subsidized / Unsubsidized Loan The verification process must be completed before the student stops attending on a half-time (6.0 credits) basis in the academic year.
Perkins Loan The verification process must be completed before the student stops attending on a half-time (6.0 credits) basis in the academic year.
SEOG Grant The verification process must be completed before the student stops attending in the academic year and the student must also be eligible for a Pell grant.
Federal Work-Study Students are not permitted to work if they have not complied with verification.
Federal Parent PLUS or Graduate PLUS Loans The verification process must be completed before the student stops attending on a half-time (6.0 credits) basis in the academic year..
Federal Pell Grant Students have up to one hundred and twenty (120) days after they stop attending in the academic year to complete verification to receive a Pell Grant (if they otherwise qualify).

How long does the verification process take to be completed? top
Once all the required documentation is received, an advisor will review the information and submit corrections to the federal processor as needed. Be advised that sometimes after the documentation is reviewed, it becomes clear that additional documents are needed. Therefore, students should check their Banner requirements frequently. Once the corrected FAFSA is received by Buffalo State, federal aid can be offered and/or disbursed to the student. During peak times (semester start-up), processing time can take 4 weeks to have aid offered. Therefore, students are strongly encouraged to submit their FAFSA by March 1 to allow ample processing time for the following Fall or Spring semesters. During non-peak times, students that have submitted all documentation are typically reviewed within one to two weeks and aid offered accordingly.

Can I receive any federal aid while I wait to submit documents? top
No, verification must be completed first. The only exception is if a student is selected after federal aid has paid to their account; those funds will not be sent back to ED unless completion of verification necessitates it or the student fails to submit the required documents. 
 
Can I avoid being selected in a future year? top
If you were selected because there was a clear error on your FAFSA, completing it more accurately in a subsequent year may prevent you from being selected again. There is no way to avoid being randomly selected. Using the IRS Data Retrieval can minimize the documents required if selected for verification. Individuals that use the data retrieval are typically not required to submit their federal tax return transcript.