Federal Verification Process

Jump to Topic:

What is Verification?

Verification is the process by which Northwestern University confirms accuracy of the data reported on an individual student's FAFSA. The FAFSA federal processor selects the applications for which the data submitted must be verified.

The federal processor applies a series of edit checks, which are prescribed by federal financial aid regulations, to each FAFSA. The edit checks cause some applications to be selected for verification. In addition, the federal processor randomly selects for verification a small percentage of all financial aid applications.

The student will be required to submit additional documentation beyond the standard application documents. These documents may include:

  1. The Federal Verification Worksheet
  2. Copies of the federal income tax TRANSCRIPT for the student, spouse and/or parent (if applicable) if the student did not use the IRS data retrieval process or made changes to the data once it was reported in the IRS data retrieval process.

NOTE: Due to changes in federal Verification policy as of the 2012-13 academic year, a signed copy of the federal 1040 form can no longer be accepted in place of the federal tax transcript issued by the IRS.

Proof of citizenship, proof of sibling/spouse/dependent enrollment at another institution, copies of Social Security benefit statements, 1099 forms and other documents may also be requested. 

FAFSA applications are randomly selected by the federal processor for verification. Per federal regulations, the Chicago Office of Financial Aid must verify all students selected for verification by the federal processor. If there is an asterisk next to the EFC figure on the top right corner of your Student Aid Report (SAR), your SAR has been selected for verification.  The Chicago Office of Financial Aid may also exercise the right to select additional students for verification at any time. The Financial Aid Office will add documents to the student’s TO DO list in CAESAR and notify them via their NU email account if they are selected for verification and additional documentation is needed.

If discrepancies are discovered during verification, the Office of Financial Aid may require additional information or documents. Any discrepancies that must be corrected may change your eligibility for financial aid as estimated on your Student Aid Report. 

If you, your spouse or your parent refuse to submit the required documentation, your eligibility for federal financial aid may be forfeited.

What information will be verified?

Schools are required to verify the data elements below.

  • Household size (number of people in your household)
  • Number in college (number of household members attending a post secondary educational institution at least half time)
  • Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or income earned from work if income is below minimum required for income tax filing
  • U.S. Income Tax Paid for the base year
  • Certain Untaxed Income and Benefits for the base year
    • Untaxed IRA distributions
    • Untaxed pensions
    • Education Credits
    • IRA deductions
    • Tax exempt interest
    • Food stamps (SNAP) received
    • Child support paid

In addition to these basic verification requirements, students may be asked to verify any other data item reported on the FAFSA.

What Documentation will I have to submit?

Federally dependent students are required to submit a dependent federal verification worksheet and a copy of both the student and parent’s federal income tax transcripts for the fiscal year on which the FAFSA was based.   (Example:  A student selected for verification in 2014-15 would submit information from the 2013 tax year.)

Federally Independent students are required to submit an independent federal verification worksheet and a copy of the federal income tax transcript for the fiscal year. If an independent student was married at the time he/she signed his FAFSA and did not file a joint tax return, the student must also submit a tax transcript for his/her spouse.

NOTE: Due to changes in federal verification policy, a copy of the federal 1040 form can no longer be accepted in place of the federal tax transcript issued by the IRS. If a federal tax transcript is unavailable to you because you, your spouse or your parent filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return, please contact the Office of Financial Aid for further instructions.

Other documents may be requested by the Office of Financial Aid during the verification process.  Students will be notified via their TO DO list in CAESAR if additional documentation is required.

The verification worksheet and the tax transcripts should be forwarded to the Office of Financial Aid-Chicago as soon as possible after they are requested.  Students will not be awarded federal financial aid until the verification process has been completed. 

How do I request my federal tax transcript from the IRS?

Tax filers can request a transcript of their 2013 federal tax return from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), free of charge, in one of three ways:

  • Online Request
    • Available the IRS website at www.irs.gov
    • In the Online Services section of the homepage, click “Order a Tax Return or Account Transcript.”
    • Click “Order a Transcript”
    • Enter the tax filer’s SSN, Date of birth, street address and zip or postal code. Use the address currently on file with the IRS. Generally, this will be the address that was listed on the latest tax return filed. However, if an address change has been completed through the US Postal Service, the IRS may have the updated address on file.
    • Click “Continue”
    • In the TYPE of TRANSCRIPT field, select “Return Transcript” and in the TAX YEAR field, select 2013.
    • If successfully validated, tax filers can expect to receive a paper IRS Tax Return Transcript at the address included in their online request within 5 to 10 business days from the time the online request was successfully transmitted to the IRS
    • IRS Tax Return Transcripts requested online cannot be sent directly to a third party (NU) by the IRS.
  • Telephone request 
    • Available from the IRS by calling 1-800-908-9946
    • Tax filers must follow prompts to enter their SSN and the numbers in their street address. Generally, these will be the numbers of the street address that was listed on the latest tax return filed. However, if an address change has been completed through the US Postal Service, the IRS may have the updated address on file.
    • Select “OPTION 2” to request an IRS Tax Return Transcript, and then enter “2013”
    • If successfully validated, tax filers can expect to receive a paper IRS Tax Return Transcript at the address that was used in their telephone request within 5-10 days from the time the IRS receives the request.
    • IRS Tax Transcripts requested by telephone cannot be sent directly to a third party (NU) by the IRS.
  • Paper Request Form- IRS Form 4506T-EZ
    • IRS Form 4506T-EZ should be used instead of IRS 4506-T because it is sufficient to request an IRS Tax Return transcript
    • Download IRS Form 4506T-EZ at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506tez.pdf
    • Complete lines 1-4, following the instructions on page 2 of the form. Note that line 3 should be the most current address as filed with the IRS. It is the address where the IRS Tax Return Transcript will be sent. If the address has recently changed, include the address listed on the latest tax return filed on Line 4. However, if an address change has been completed through the US Postal Service, the IRS may have the updated address on file.
    • Line 5 provides tax filers with the option to have their IRS Tax Return Transcript mailed directly to a third party (NU) by the IRS.
    • On line 6, enter “2013” to receive IRS tax information for the 2013 tax year that is required for the 2014-15 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
    • The Tax Filers (or spouse, if requesting information from a joint tax return) must sign and date the form and enter their telephone number. Only one signature is required to request a transcript for a joint return.
    • Mail or fax the completed IRS form 4506T-EZ to the appropriate address (or FAX number) provided on page 2 of Form 4506T-EZ.
    • Tax filers can expect to receive their transcript within 5-10 days from the time the IRS receives and processes their signed request. NOTE: Processing Form 4506T-EZ means verifying/validating the information provided on the form. If any information does not match the IRS records, the IRS will notify the tax filer that it was not able to provide the transcript.

What If the Student will not file a Federal Income Tax Return?

Students who were not required to file a tax return for the year in question must submit copies of all W2s received for the prior tax year and a signed statement certifying:

  • That the individual has not filed and is not required to file an income tax return for the prior tax year
  • The sources of income earned from work as reported on the FAFSA and amounts of income from each source for 2013 that is not reported on W2 forms

  If a student did not work at all during the tax year, the student should check the appropriate box in Section C of the Verification Worksheet. If the student worked but is not required to file a tax return, the student should write in the sources and amounts of earnings and attach W-2's to Section C of the Verification Worksheet and attach copies of all W2 forms.

What If the Parent will not file a Federal income Tax Return?

Parent(s) who were not required to file a tax return for the year in question must submit copies of all W2s received for the prior tax year and a signed statement certifying:

  • That the individual has not filed and is not required to file an income tax return for the prior tax year
  • The sources of income earned from work as reported on the FAFSA and amounts of income from each source for 2013 that is not reported on W2 forms

If the parents will not file a federal income tax return, the parent must check the appropriate box in Section D of the Verification Worksheet. If the parent worked but was not required to file a tax return, the parent should write the source and amounts of earnings in Section D and attached a copy of all W2 forms.

What does it mean when I'm asked to provide proof of my sibling, spouse or child’s enrollment?

If a student indicated on the FAFSA that there is more than one family member attending college, NU may require proof that the family member is in fact attending a college/university.  In this case, the Chicago Office of Financial Aid will request that you submit a “Verification of Family Member Enrolled in College” Form.

How do I avoid verification processing delays?

To help diminish the possibility of verification processing delays, please do the following:

Submit all documents at the same time to:
Northwestern University
Office of Financial Aid- Chicago
710 N. Lake Shore Drive Suite 629
Chicago, IL 60611

Fax: 312-503-8700

Remember to make photocopies for your records.

  • Print your name and 7-digit ID number (found on your Wildcard) on each page of the documents that you submit.
  • Respond to each section of the Verification Worksheet. If a section or part of a section does not apply to you/your parent(s)/your spouse, write “N/A” or “-0-,” as appropriate. Do not leave sections blank.

What happens after Verification is completed?

If the accuracy of the data reported on your FAFSA is confirmed, the Office of Financial Aid can determine your eligibility for financial aid. You will receive an award notification email via your NU email account directing you to view your financial aid and complete the Accept or Decline Financial Aid process in CAESAR.

If verification indicates differences between the data reported on your FAFSA and the tax documents/income information that you submit with your Verification Worksheet, the Office of Financial Aid may make corrections to the data on your FAFSA and electronically transmit the corrected data to the federal processor. The Office of Financial Aid will notify you via your NU email account if corrections are made to the data on your FAFSA.

Can my financial aid change as a result of Verification?

Financial aid awards are based on the information provided on your FAFSA. Federal Programs such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG Grant, Federal Perkins Loan and the Federal Subsidized Stafford Loan Program have strict eligibility requirements. If the data reported on verification documents differs from the information reported on the student’s FAFSA, the student’s eligibility for these programs may be affected. 

What is the verification deadline?

The verification review process can range from 2 - 6 weeks.  Students are advised to submit copies of the requested documentation within 14 days of the request made by the Office of Financial Aid. 

Federal Loan Applicants: Northwestern University requires verification to occur before determining eligibility; a federal loan application cannot be certified for a period of enrollment that has already passed.

Where can I download required Verification forms?

Students can access required verification forms here.