About Verification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Verification is the confirmation through documentation that the information provided on a student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is correct. The federal government requires colleges and universities to verify or confirm the data reported by students and their parent(s) on the FAFSA before financial aid can be awarded. This page lists some of the most commonly asked questions and answers regarding the verification process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Each year students and their families apply for financial aid by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are various reasons why your FAFSA may have been selected for verification. The U.S. Department of Education does not share the model used to select FAFSAs for verification, but here are some red flags that are likely to lead to verification:
- FAFSA includes incomplete data or data that appears to contradict itself
- The IRS data retrieval tool was not used to download income tax data into the FAFSA
- Taxes paid are inconsistent with an estimate based on the adjusted gross income and the number of exemptions claimed on the federal income tax return
- FAFSA indicates that no tax return was filed, but income exceeds the IRS filing thresholds
- Marital status as reported on the FAFSA is different from marital status reported on the federal income tax return
- FAFSA reports zero income or income that’s too low to support the student (below the income protection allowance thresholds)
- Household size on the FAFSA differs significantly from the number of exemptions claimed on the federal income tax return
Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will indicate you were selected. All selected Mercyhurst students will be sent a letter which details the documents required to complete verification. An email will also be sent to your Mercyhurst Lakers email address informing you of your selection and what is needed.
You will have 30 days upon notification from Mercyhurst to submit your verification documents. If you cannot submit your documentation within that timeframe you will need to contact the Student Financial Services Office on your campus.
You have a number of options.
- Fax all documents to the campus you will be attending.
- Email all documents to the campus you will be attending.
- Mail to the campus you will be attending.
- Erie Campus
- Mercyhurst University Student Financial Services
501 East 38th Street
Erie, PA 16546
- Mercyhurst University Student Financial Services
- North East and all other campuses
- Mercyhurst University North East
Student Financial Services
16 W. Division Street
North East, PA 16428
- Mercyhurst University North East
- Erie Campus
Upon submission of all requested documents, it can take up to three weeks for your verification material to be reviewed. Once reviewed, you will be notified of any additional documentation needed. If nothing further is required, your information will be processed and your financial aid file will be complete. Students will receive notification via email that their verification has been completed.
Typically, we begin awarding our returning students who have completed the FAFSA in mid-May. However, if you are selected for verification, your award letter will not show federal student loans or federal PELL grant (if applicable) or federal work study (if applicable) until all required documentation is submitted and the verification process is complete.
While there are several types of verification which may require different documents, the most common type requires the following forms:
- Verification Worksheet - Be sure to read the instructions carefully. If a mistake is made while filling out the form, cross it off and initial. Do not use white out on this form
- Signed and dated copy of your Federal tax return filed with the IRS for the tax year reported on the FAFSA. You can also use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA (if a tax filer) for both the student and the parent
- If a non-tax filer, all W-2 Forms for both the student and the parent(s)
- Non-tax filers will also need to obtain an IRS Verification of Non-filing Letter
We may request additional or alternative documentation based on the verification process for which you were selected.
Yes, you must get an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter even if you did not work at all in the tax year being referred to on the FAFSA being verified. Only dependent students who did not file an income tax form in that year are not required to obtain this letter.
- An IRS Verification of Non-filing Letter can be obtained online at www.irs.gov using the IRS Get Transcript service
- If the individual cannot obtain one online for whatever reason, it can be obtained by completing and checking box 7 on the IRS Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, and mailing it to the IRS
- If appropriate, a similar confirmation from another taxing authority (e.g., a U.S. territory or a foreign government) is also acceptable
- If you attempt to obtain a verification of nonfiling and are unable to obtain it, you should contact the Student Financial Services office to discuss other options.
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (commonly referred to as DRT) is a function on the FAFSA that allows you to directly transfer your tax information from the IRS database into the FAFSA. The DRT can be used when completing the FAFSA or when updating the FAFSA after the IRS has processed your tax return. If the DRT was used successfully to transfer the tax information into the FAFSA, a tax return transcript will not be required.
- Log in to your current FAFSA form or start a new application at studentaid.gov
- In the finances section of the online form, you will see a “Link to IRS” button if you are eligible to use the IRS DRT
- Click the “Link to IRS” button and log in with your username and password to be transferred to the IRS to retrieve your info
- Once at the IRS site, enter your information exactly as it appears on your federal income tax return and click the “Submit” button
- Check the “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA form” box, and click the “Transfer Now” button
- You will know that your federal tax return information has been successfully transferred because the words “Transferred from the IRS” will display in place of the IRS information in your FAFSA form.
- For your protection, your tax information will not be displayed on either the IRS site or fafsa.gov
- If you are a dependent student who filed a tax return, you will need to repeat the process for student income information
- Once completed, continue to the “Sign & Submit” tab to fully process corrections and re-submit the FAFSA with the tax information from the DRT (please check all these steps to ensure they are the same)
If an applicant does not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and the applicant's FAFSA is selected for verification, the applicant will be required to submit a signed and dated copy of their federal tax return that was submitted to the IRS. It may be easier to use the DRT.
If you are not able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you can submit a signed and dated copy of your federal tax return that was submitted to the IRS. You are not required to use the DRT and can submit a copy of the tax return if you prefer or if you experience any issues using the DRT.
- An IRS Record of Account Transcript for the verifying tax year OR
- A Tax Account Transcript along with a Tax Return Transcript from the year being verified OR
- A signed copy of the 1040X form that was filed with the IRS for the specified year AND one of the following:
- An IRS tax return transcript (can be obtained through a request on irs.gov website) OR
- A signed coy of the tax return and all attached schedules that were filed with the IRS for the year being verified OR
- Proof of unaltered IRS DRT information on the FAFSA from the original tax return
- Any letter or notice from the IRS indicating the changes the IRS made to the individual’s tax return data items OR
- A Tax Account Transcript which shows any amended tax data items
Yes. If you filed as “Married – Filing a Joint Return” but you indicated on the FAFSA that you are widowed or separated, do not use the DRT. You will need to submit a signed and dated copy of your federal tax return that was submitted to the IRS and all W-2 forms for a separation of income.
Most students and parents can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool when completing the verification process (or when updating your FAFSA). However, several instances may make you ineligible to use the DRT. Ineligible statuses include:
- Married filing separately
- Filing Puerto Rican or foreign returns
- Victims of Identity Theft
If any of these unique filing statuses pertain to you, please read the instructions under the question that addresses that topic.
- A signed and dated copy of the federal tax return that was submitted to the IRS is required for all tax filers- one for each parent
- If “Married filing separately” is the filing status but one spouse did not file, submit all W-2s for the non-filing spouse if the spouse worked at all in the year being verified
- Submit the IRS Statement of Non-filing Letter for all non-tax filers
- A copy of the tax return transcript equivalent that was filed with the taxing authority of that country, or
- A signed copy of the tax return filed with the taxing authority only if the tax filer cannot obtain a free copy of a tax transcript from the taxing authority
Victims of identity theft who cannot get a return transcript or use the DRT must submit a Tax Return DataBase View (TRDBV) transcript as well as a statement they have signed and dated indicating that they were victims of tax-related identity theft and that the IRS has been made aware of it. They do this by calling the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized
Unit (IPSU) at 800-908-4490. After the IPSU authenticates the tax filer’s identity, they can ask the IRS to mail them the TRDBV transcript. The TRDBV can be used for verification.
If you are missing a W-2, contact your employer for a replacement copy.
In some instances such as self-employment, you may not receive a W-2 for earnings reportable on the tax return. In such circumstances, you must include a written description of the amount and source of income with your verification material and include any supporting documentation you may have regarding this income.
Please provide all of the following:
- An unexpired IRS approval of extension beyond the automatic 6 month extension
- Verification of non-filing letter
- W-2s or equivalents for each source of employment income received for the specified tax year
- If self-employed, a signed statement certifying the amount of adjusted gross income (AGI) and tax paid for the specified tax year
Mercyhurst University is required to correct any conflicting information found during the verification process. If the corrections impact the student’s financial aid eligibility, the student’s financial aid awards must be adjusted accordingly.
If a student/family does not provide the verification materials, the verification is incomplete. Mercyhurst would be unable to award federal title IV aid until verification is completed.
If you do not find the answers to your questions, please feel free to contact Student Financial Services at Mercyhurst Main
814-824-2288 or the Mercyhurst North East office at 814-725-6265. You can also submit your question via email to the Student Financial Services Office. Email Mercyhurst main campus at firstname.lastname@example.org or all other campuses at email@example.com.