If you are a college feeding in the federal financial aid trough, you have to eat what you are given. Unfortunately, we are stuck with a diet rich in red tape and ever-changing regulations. The culinary soup du jour for the coming year is verification.
Verification, or the need to make sure that the data submitted on the FAFSA are accurate, has been around for many years. Until the coming year, however, we have been able to accept paper copies of families’ 1040s. Not anymore. You now either have to do an IRS data match on your FAFSA or request an IRS transcript.
Both of these approaches can get complicated. For the data match, you will not be able to do it if your 1040 is not completed when you submit the FAFSA. Moreover, you cannot do it under some other circumstances, such as married filing separately, or being separated or divorced, but still filing a joint return. In these cases, you will need to do an IRS transcript. You supposedly can get a transcript within two weeks, but you will be requesting it during the peak tax filing season, so all timing bets are off.
What should you do? Getting your 2011 tax forms submitted as early as possible and making sure that, if you can, you do the FAFSA IRS data match will help reduce potential problems. You also need to respond as quickly as possible to any follow-up letters you will receive from us.
See you next time.