The Department of Education stipulates that we must receive tax data directly from the IRS, via one of the following:
1) The IRS data retrieval option on the FAFSA (preferred)
2) A “tax return transcript” ordered from the IRS
What is the IRS Data Retrieval Process?
This is an option on the FAFSA that eligible applicants can use to import their tax data from a processed tax return from the IRS directly into the FAFSA. The Department of Education is urging families to choose this option in order to complete their FAFSAs more easily and accurately. For written instructions, click here. To view a Data Retrival Tool tutorial, click here.
Who is eligible?
Most applicants will be eligible. Please note that the student and parent(s) need to each choose the option. If an applicant is not eligible based on the responses to the FAFSA questions, the data retrieval option will not be offered.
However, some applicants will not be able to use this option. If this is the case, and the student is selected for verification, the parent (and student) will need to submit an IRS tax return transcript if they filed a tax return. For written instructions, click here. (PDF) For online instructions, click here.
What is a “tax return transcript”?
A “tax return transcript” is a print-out from the IRS that contains most of the information on your tax return. Although the name is similar, it is NOT the same as the tax return that you file. A tax return transcript is provided free of charge by the IRS and can be requested online, by phone, or by mail (click here for written instructions). If you are not eligible to complete the data retrieval process, or if you have tried repeatedly to complete the data retrieval process without success, you will need to request a tax return transcript.
When will the data retrieval option be available on the FAFSA?
For those taxpayers who file their federal tax return electronically, the data retrieval option will generally be available 2-3 weeks after the IRS has accepted the tax return. If you complete your FAFSA prior to submitting your federal tax return, wait 2-3 weeks after submitting your tax return to the IRS before logging back into FAFSA to use the data retrieval tool.
I am a prospective student. Should I submit the FAFSA before my parents and I complete our federal tax returns in order to meet the February 15th priority deadline?
If you are a prospective student, you may need to complete the FAFSA using your best estimates for your 2015 tax information in order to meet the deadline. Once your tax return has been processed, you can return to the FAFSA to complete the data retrieval option.
I filed my FAFSA using estimates, and I have now filed my tax return. How long will it be before I am able to make the appropriate FAFSA updates using IRS data retrieval or order a Tax Return Transcript?
Wait 2-3 weeks after filing before trying data retrieval or ordering tax return transcript.
Wait 6-8 weeks after return has been accepted the IRS before trying data retrieval or ordering tax return transcript.
Taxes due paid in full when tax return is filed:
- Wait 2-3 weeks after filing before trying data retrieval or ordering tax return transcript.
Taxes due paid in full after tax return is filed:
- Wait 3-4 weeks after full amount due has been paid before trying data retrieval or ordering tax return transcript.
Taxes due and not paid in full:
- The IRS will process the return in May. Wait 2-3 weeks after return has been processed before trying to use data retrieval or ordering tax return transcript.
Mailed tax returns which show taxes due will be processed by the IRS in June.
Data retrieval/tax return transcript should be available 2-3 weeks after the IRS has processed the return.
My son/daughter is a prospective student who has been selected for verification, but the IRS may not process my tax information until after the May 1 decision deadline. What should I do?
We can process an award estimate for a prospective freshman if the student meets all of the following criteria:
1) The student and/or his/her parents are unable to submit the data retrieval information or a tax return transcript by April 1.
2) The tax filing status is listed as “Already Completed” on the most recent FAFSA submission/correction.
3) All other required verification items have been submitted.
If the above requirements are met, we will process an award estimate without final tax data. Our goal is to have an estimate to the student in time for the student to make an enrollment decision by Admissions’ May 1 deadline. Final tax data will, however, need to be submitted before award funds can be disbursed.
What if I’m not selected for verification—do I still need to complete the data retrieval?
Technically, no. However, since you don’t know ahead of time if you will be selected for verification, it is best to complete the data retrieval option on the FAFSA if you are eligible. In fact, those who are eligible but choose NOT to complete it are more likely to be selected for verification.
I’ve been selected for verification but I am not filing taxes – what do I need to do?
You may be asked to complete a verification worksheet. There is a box to check to indicate that you did not file a tax return.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR TAX FILERS WITH UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES
Please read and follow the instructions below if any of these unusual circumstances apply to the student and/or parent(s):
Tax filing extension
Victim(s) of IRS Tax-Related Identity Theft
Filed a non-IRS income tax return
1. Individuals Granted a Filing Extension by the IRS
If an individual is required to file a 2015 IRS income tax return and has been granted a filing extension by the IRS, please provide the following documents:
- A copy of the IRS Form 4868, ‘‘Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return,’’ that was filed with the IRS for tax year 2015;
- If applicable, a copy of the IRS’s approval of an extension beyond the automatic six-month extension if the individual requested an additional extension of the filing time for tax year 2015; and
- A copy of IRS Form W–2 for each source of employment income received for tax year 2015 and, if self-employed, the Self-certified AGI statement.
2. Individuals Who Filed an Amended IRS Income Tax Return
If an individual filed an amended IRS income tax return for tax year 2015, please provide both of the following:
- A 2015 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 return transcript(s) that includes all of the income and tax information required to be verified; and
- A signed copy of the 2015 IRS Form 1040X, "Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return," that was filed with the IRS.
3. Individuals Who Were Victims of IRS Tax-Related Identity Theft
An individual who was the victim of IRS tax-related identity theft must provide a Tax Return DataBase View (TRDBV) transcript obtained from the IRS, or any other IRS tax transcript(s) that includes all of the income and tax information required to be verified.
4. Individuals Who Filed Non-IRS Income Tax Returns
If an individual filed or will file a 2015 income tax return with the relevant taxing authority of a U.S. territory, commonwealth, or with a foreign central government, they must provide:
- A transcript that was obtained at no cost from the relevant taxing authority of a U.S. territory (Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands) or commonwealth (Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands), or a foreign central government, that includes all of the tax riler’s income and tax information required to be verified for tax year 2015; or
- If a transcript cannot be obtained at no cost from the relevant taxing authority, a signed copy of the 2015 income tax return(s). For more information, please click here.