Office of Financial Aid
Verification Frequently Asked Questions
- What should I do if selected for verification?
- What happens during the verification process?
- Why was MY FAFSA selected for verification?
- How long does the verification process take?
- How can I expedite the verification process?
- Where can I get my verification worksheet?
- How should I submit my verification documents to the Office of Financial Aid?
- How will I be notified if I have incomplete verification materials?
- What happens if I do not complete verification?
- How can my parent/guardian or I check the status of my verification?
- What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- How can I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- Why do I need to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- How do I know if I am eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- Who cannot and/or should not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- What should I do if I am not eligible or cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- How do I request a Tax Return Transcript?
- Who should be considered a parent on the FAFSA?
- How should I answer the question about parent marital status?
- Why do I have to include step-parent information?
- What if I was unmarried when I filed my taxes, but am now married?
What should I do if selected for verification?
All students selected for verification must submit the appropriate documentation to the Office of Financial Aid (OFA). This may include, but is not limited to:
- A University of Mississippi verification worksheet, (if required) with all items completed and student/parent or student/spouse signatures included
- IRS Data Retrieval Tool or Tax Return Transcripts
- Any applicable tax schedules (i.e., C, F, or Schedule K1 Form 1065) for student/parent or student/spouse
- All student/spouse W-2 form(s) or 1099-MISC form(s) for total wage income*
- All parent W-2 form(s) or 1099-MISC form(s) for total income *
- Parent verification of non-tax filing if parents did not file taxes (if requested by OFA)
- Parent Statement of Financial Support (if requested by OFA)
- Verification of Student Identity & Statement of Educational Purpose
- Proof of high school or equivalent completion
*NOTE REGARDING TAX DOCUMENTS: remember that in any given academic year, we request the tax return information for two previous tax-filing year. For instance, for the 2018-19 academic year, we would request tax information that was filed for 2016.
What happens during the verification process?
During verification, the OFA compares information from the student’s FAFSA with all other required verification documents. Once the verification review is complete, the OFA may need to make necessary corrections to the student’s FAFSA. If needed, the OFA will correct a student’s FAFSA and submit them to the federal processor. Therefore, it is very important during or after verification that a student (or parent, spouse) NOT make any changes to the FAFSA as this will only delay the awarding and disbursing of Federal or need-based aid (Pell Grant, Federal Direct Loans, Work-Study, Scholarships, etc.).
Why was MY FAFSA selected for verification?
The Department of Education (DOE) does not provide applicants with specific reasoning why their FAFSA was selected. The DOE uses a formula, not revealed to colleges and universities, to select applicants based on common data errors.
How long does the verification process take?
Verification processing time is generally three to four weeks during peak season (June-October), and two to three weeks during non-peak season (November-May). Therefore, students should start the process as soon as possible.
How can I expedite the verification process?
- Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool OR Request Tax Return Transcripts as soon as notified.
- Complete the worksheet in its entirety prior to submitting.
- Make sure to submit all requested documents and they are complete and legible.
- Always include the student’s full given name and student ID number on each document submitted.
- Keep a copy of all documents submitted for your records.
- Monitor the student’s Ole Miss email account for requests for additional information and updates.
- Allow 3-4 weeks for processing. NOTE: Calling and emailing frequently, requesting verification processing updates, only slows the process as a member of the verification team must stop reviewing to answer questions.
Where can I get my verification worksheet?
Students selected for verification by the federal processor are placed in specific verification “categories.” Some categories may require the submission of information contained within a verification worksheet as developed by The University of Mississippi Office of Financial Aid. A student’s customized verification worksheet specifies what additional documentation and information is needed to complete verification. If a student IS required to submit a verification worksheet:
- Links to the applicable Verification Worksheets will be available to students through their myOleMiss portal. Students can follow the “Check Your Status” link here or on the Office of Financial Aid’s homepage.
- If for some reason students cannot access their worksheet using the myOleMiss portal they, or their parents, may request a copy by contacting the Office of Financial Aid in-person, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Student Financial Services HELP LINE at 1-800-891-4596.
How should I submit my verification documents to the Office of Financial Aid?
Students and/or their parent(s) may submit verification documents to the Financial Aid Office through one of the following ways:
- In person: 257 Martindale Hall, Student Services Center (8:00am–4:30 pm, M-F)
- By regular mail: Office of Financial Aid; 257 Martindale Ctr.; P.O. Box 1848; University, MS 38677-1848)
- Via fax: 662-915-1164
How will I be notified if I have incomplete verification materials?
The OFA will contact students (to the student’s OleMiss email account) or parents via e-mail (or in some cases by phone) if students/parents do not include certain verification documents, if any information is incomplete or blank on the verification worksheet, or if the OFA needs to request additional information.
What happens if I do not complete verification?
If a student who is selected for verification does not complete the verification process, then any Federal and/or need-based aid (Pell grant, SEOG, Work-Study, Federal Direct loans, certain Scholarships, and institutional aid) will NOT be awarded or disbursed.
How can my parent/guardian or I check the status of my verification?
Students (and parents, who are listed on the FAFSA) may check the status of verification by calling our Student Financial Services HELP LINE (1-800-891-4596). If the need arises for more detailed investigation of a student’s verification status, the help center may refer student or parent inquiries to a verification advisor.
What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)* is a function in the student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) where students or parents who filed an IRS tax return have the option of directly transferring required tax data from the IRS database directly into the student’s FAFSA. For returns filed electronically, tax data can be transferred into the FAFSA using the DRT within 2 weeks from the date of filing. For returns filed by mail, tax data can be transferred in 6-8 weeks.
*NOTE: at the beginning of the FAFSA processing cycle (October 1), the IRS Data Retrieval Tool may not be immediately available.
How can I use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
- Log into the FAFSA using the student’s FSA ID and Password.
- Select “Make FAFSA Corrections.”
- Click on the “Financial Information” tab. For dependent students, FAFSA first displays the “Parent Financial Information” screen. Select “already completed” from the drop down box. For independent students, the FAFSA first displays the “Student Financial Information” screen. Select “already completed” from the drop down box.
- Determine if the IRS Data Retrieval Tool can be used. If parent/student is eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval, enter the parent/student FSA ID and Password and link to IRS. You will be notified that you are leaving FAFSA on the web. Click “OK” to continue.
- Enter requested information EXACTLY as it appears on the filed tax return (tax filing status and address information*). Click “Submit”. If the IRS is able to validate your identification, the Federal Income Tax Information will display. Select the “Transfer My Tax Information into the FAFSA” checkbox, and then click the “Transfer Now” button. You will then be re-directed to the FAFSA. If a dependent student and filed a tax return, select “already complete” and repeat the process from step 4 to use the IRS Data Retrieval.
- Once completed, Do Not change any data transferred from the IRS. Continue to the “Sign & Submit” tab to fully process corrections and re-submit the FAFSA.
- Corrected FAFSA results will be sent to all schools indicated. The successful use of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will expedite the verification review process and may alleviate the requirement for additional tax information.
* NOTE: ANY data entry error, for example using “St.” instead of “Street,” may cause requests to fail.
Why do I need to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
If a student/parent is eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (see next question below), we highly recommend using the tool for several reasons:
- It’s the fastest, easiest, and most secure way to provide tax data.
- It’s the best way of ensuring the FAFSA has accurate tax information.
- It may reduce the chances of being selected for the verification process.
- It reduces the need to submit additional tax documents to the financial aid office.
How do I know if I am eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
Students/parents who meet the following criteria, are given the option to retrieve, display and transfer federal tax information:
- If student/parent filed a tax return
- If student/parent has a valid Social Security Number
- If student/parent has a FSA ID and Password (If you do not have a FSA ID (if student/parent does not have a FSA ID, one should be created at fsaid.ed.gov
- If student/parent marital status has not changed since December 31st.
Who cannot and/or should not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
If any of the following conditions apply to students or parents, DO NOT use the DRT if:
- An amended federal tax return was filed
- A federal tax return was not filed
- The federal tax filing status is “married, filing separately”
- The marital status from January 1st through May 11th has changed
- A foreign tax return was filed
What should I do if I am not eligible or cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
If students/parents are unable or choose not to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in FAFSA on the web, they are required to submit to the OFA the appropriate year Tax Return Transcript(s)—NOT the “Account Transcript” and NOT a copy of the actual return(s).
How do I request a Tax Return Transcript?
IRS Tax Return Transcripts (or other transcripts) may be requested online, by mail, by phone, or in-person:
- Visit IRS Website at https://www.irs.gov
- From the IRS homepage, select the “Get Transcript Online”
- On the next page, select “Get Transcript Online”
- From there, follow the directions to secure an online version of the transcript to download and save or print
- Visit IRS Website at https://www.irs.gov
- From the IRS homepage, select the “Get Transcript Online”
- On the next page, select “Get Transcript by Mail”
- From there, follow the directions to secure a transcript by mail
Once you receive confirmation of a successful request, a Tax Return Transcript will be mailed within 5 to 10 business days (mail requests for IRS transcripts cannot be sent directly to the Office of Financial Aid or other third parties).
- Call 1-800-908-9946
- Follow prompts and enter Social Security Number and Address
- Choose “Option 2” – request an IRS Tax Return Transcript, enter the appropriate year.
Once you receive confirmation of a successful request, a Tax Return Transcript will be mailed to the address on file with the IRS within 5 to 10 business days (phone requests for IRS transcripts WILL NOT allow transcript to be sent directly to the Office of Financial Aid or other third parties).
Contact a Local IRS Office:
Some local IRS offices may be able to assist with transcript requests or other services. A list of local IRS offices can be found by accesssing: https://www.irs.gov/help/contact-your-local-irs-office (select the “Taxpayer Assistance Center Office Locator” bar).
Once Tax Return Transcript(s) are received, include the student’s name and ID number and submit to:
The University of Mississippi Office of Financial Aid
Student Services Center
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
Please note that the IRS Transcripts are double-sided, so be sure to include both sides when submitting to OFA.
Who should be considered a parent on the FAFSA?
The FAFSA application requires dependent students to provide information about a student’s LEGAL parents (biological, adoptive, step-parent). See next question for more information about parent marital status. The following people are NOT considered parents on the FAFSA (unless they are considered adoptive parents): grandparents, foster parents, legal guardians, older brothers or sisters, and uncles or aunts.
Under certain circumstances, the student DOES NOT need to include parent information, if:
- the student is in Legal Guardianship: A legal guardian is NOT considered a parent in the financial aid process (the OFA will require additional documentation needed to verify Legal Guardianship status in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status).
- the student has foster parents: A foster parent is not considered a parent in the financial aid process (the OFA may require additional documentation in order to determine and consider a student’s independent status).
How should I answer the question about parent marital status?
Indicate the parent marital status as of the day you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA considers five marital status categories for parents of dependent students based upon a parent’s particular marital status. Parent marital status affects what additional information is needed for other FAFSA questions, therefore it is IMPORTANT to answer the parent marital status questions accurately. Following is a list of the five marital status categories including information on how to answer FAFSA questions based on that marital status:
- Never married: a (single) parent who was never married and does not live with the student’s (other) legal parent, or a parent who is widowed but not remarried. Answer questions about that parent.
- Unmarried and both parents living together: a student’s legal (biological or adoptive) who are not married but live together. Provide information about BOTH parents, regardless of gender. Do not include any person who is NOT married to the student’s parent and who is NOT a legal or biological parent.
- Married or remarried: legal parents (biological, adoptive, step-parent) who are married and/or living together. Consistent with the Supreme Court decision holding Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, same-sex couples MUST report their marital status as married if they were legally married in a state or other jurisdiction (foreign country) that permits same-sex marriage, without regard to where the couple resides. NOTE: If legal parents are divorced but LIVING TOGETHER, answer “Unmarried and both parents living together.” If legal parents are SEPARATED BUT LIVING TOGETHER, answer “Married or remarried,” NOT “Divorced or separated.”
- Divorced or Separated: legal parents (biological, adoptive, step-parent) who ARE NOT living together. Provide information about the parent that you lived with most during the last 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, provide information about the parent who provided most of your financial support during the last 12 months.
- Widowed: If a widowed parent is unmarried, answer questions about that parent. If a widowed parent is remarried as of the date of the FAFSA submission, answer questions about parent and step-parent.
Why do I have to include step-parent information?
Reporting step-parent information DOES NOT require a step-parent to offer financial assistance to the student for educational expenses. However, if a legal parent (biological or adoptive) is divorced and REMARRIED, step-parent information (including income and assets) is considered important aspects of the family’s financial situation, and IS required for the calculation of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which determines a student’s eligibility. Including step-parent information on the FAFSA provides an accurate picture of the family’s total potential to pay college costs.
What if I was unmarried when I filed my taxes, but I am now married?
- If a student was married BEFORE submitting the FAFSA, then the student may be considered independent.
- If the student was married AFTER submitting the FAFSA, the student must contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information regarding independent status.