The Verification Process
The financial aid process is based on the assumption that the student and often, the student's parents, are responsible for paying for college. To determine the family's ability to pay for college we use a formula. The formula uses data collected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) regarding income, assets, household size and the number of household members attending college at least half-time during academic year.
When you completed the FASFA or TASFA you were asked for income data from the "base year". For the 2014-2015 academic year the base year is 2013. Often, the FAFSA is submitted before tax returns have been completed. You are able to provide estimated income information on the FAFSA. However, when estimated information is used, the FASFA must eventually be updated with the actual information from the tax return. In April, the FAFSA processor sends students a reminder to update their FAFSA information.
A percentage of the applications submitted are selected for the verification process. There is nothing specific that will automatically cause you to be selected for verification. Nationwide, approximately 30 percent of the applications are selected.
The verification process requests that students and parents confirm the information that was submitted originally on the FAFSA. In 2014-2015 this involves having the student (and the parents) use the IRS Data Retrieval tool available on the FAFSA on the Web and providing us with a signed "Verification Worksheet".
If, upon review of your financial aid application, we discover conflicting information we are required to resolve the conflict. To do this, we will contact you via UT Dallas e-mail and request additional information.
If you misfiled your tax return, and we identify this error in the review of your financial aid application and supporting documents, we are required to notify you of the error and request that you submit a correction to the IRS. While we cannot require you to make the correction, we cannot continue the processing of your financial aid application until this has been done. The most common error we find is when one member of a married couple chooses to file as single or as Head of Household. If you were married on the last day of the tax year you must file as either married, or married filing separately. You should consult with the IRS or a qualified tax professional if you have questions.
A common conflict we discover when reviewing a financial aid application is when the household size reported on the FAFSA is different than the household size reported on the verification worksheet. We will usually use the information reported on the worksheet to complete the verification process.
The following persons count in the household size of a dependent student’s parents, per the FAFSA's instructions:
The student and parents, even if the student is not living with them. You must exclude a parent who has died or is not living in the household because of separation or divorce.
The student’s siblings and children, if they will receive more than half their support from the student’s parent(s) from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. Siblings need not live in the home. This includes unborn children and siblings of the student who will receive more than half support from the student’s parent(s) from birth to the end of the award year. It also includes siblings who would be considered dependent based on the FAFSA dependency questions (i.e., they need not be students nor apply for aid).
For children in the household size, the “support test” is used rather than residency because there may be situations in which a parent supports a child who does not live with her, such as when the parent is divorced or separated. For the purposes of the financial aid process forster children are not counted as being in the parent's household as foster care payments typically cover the costs of foster children
Other persons who live with and receive more than half their support from the student’s parent(s) and will receive more than half support for the entire award year.
If you or your parents reported on the FAFSA that you had no income, we may ask you to provide to us an explanation as to what resources were available to you to provide for your living expenses, such as housing and food. A number of benefit programs are not reported on the FAFSA, such as SNAP and government housing assistance. If that is how you supported yourself, please let us know. If you were living with someone who provided shelter and food, let us know who and their relationship to you.
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows students and parents access to the IRS tax return information needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Both students and parents are able to transfer tax data directly into the FAFSA.
If you are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, we highly recommend using the tool for several reasons:
- It’s the easiest way to provide your tax data.
- It’s the best way of ensuring that your FAFSA has accurate tax information.
- You won’t need to provide tax documents the school.
If you do not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to provide tax information, and UT Dallas requests a copy of your tax return or your parents’ tax return, you will be required to obtain an official Tax Return Transcript from the IRS. The IRS has a web page dedicated to ordering a Tax Return Transcript at www.irs.gov/Individuals/Get_Transcript.
Does everyone need to use the IRS Data Retrieval process?
You are not required to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), but if you have been selected for verification, and you did not use this feature, or you are unable to use this feature, you must provide us with a Tax Return Transcript from the IRS. We can not accept a photocopy of your federal tax return. If you initially completed the FAFSA without using the Data Retrieval Tool you may be able to go back to www.fafsa.gov and use the DRT now.
When can I begin using the IRS Data Retrieval tool?
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is available soon 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. If you were required to send the IRS money as a result of your return the delay can be much longer as the IRS processes returns requesting a refund first.
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 Return Transcript" from the IRS. This can be done by visiting an IRS Service Center, by calling 800-908-9946 or by visiting www.irs.gov. There are occasions where you will not be eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool. For example, if you or your parents have separated or divorced after December 31, 2013; or you or your parents filed your tax return as married filing separately.
If you filed an amended tax return and you have been selected for verification you need to provide us with a signed photocopy of the IRS Form 1040X. This is in addition to submitting to us the Tax Return Transcript.
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 please contact your financial aid counselor.
If you or your parents are not required to file a federal tax return we may request that confirm this in writing. We will ask you to provide us with a detailed list of your income in the previous year, and a copy of all of the IRS form W2 you have received from your employers.. 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 indicated you did not file a federal tax return we may request from you a signed copy of IRS Form 4506-T. This form allows us to ask the IRS to confirm your status as a non-filer. This document gives UT Dallas permission to request confirmation of your tax filing status directly from the IRS.
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.
If you have tried using the DRT and it didn't work, and you have tried obtaining a Tax Return Transcript from the IRS using their automated telephone service and internet site and that also didn't work you can request a copy of your Tax Return Transcript using IRS Form 4506-T. We have a downloadable copy of this form on our website at www.utdallas.edu/student/finaid/forms. This process will take several weeks.
Some types of income are not reported on the tax return, but still must be included on the FAFSA. An example of untaxed income is any pretax contribution made in the base year to a IRS approved retirement account (401K, IRA, etc.) Do not include on the FAFSA as untaxed income 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.
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 documents. 1. The Tax Return Transcript and 2. a signed photocopy of the IRS Form 1040X you submitted to the IRS. We will need both documents to complete the verification process.
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.
The FAFSA collects data that is true as of the day you completed the form. If your situation has changed in such a way that the data reported on the FAFSA is no longer relevant, we want to know that. We have a process to review your Special Circumstance. If you were selected for verification, we must complete that process before we can begin the review of your changes. However, once verification has been completed, we may be able to use information and documentation you provide to update our records.