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Financial Aid 101:
Using IRS Data Retrieval and Understanding Federal Verification

University of Denver Financial Aid

The 2016-17 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now available! Remember, you must submit this application to be considered for any type of federal financial aid.

Using IRS Data Retrieval to Complete Your FAFSA
After you file your 2015 federal tax return, you'll be able to use the IRS data retrieval tool to either complete your FAFSA, or to correct your FAFSA at a later date.

What is the IRS data retrieval tool?
The IRS data retrieval tool allows students and parents to access the tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA, and then transfer that data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS website.

Who can use it?
Most students and parents who filed their tax returns as Single or Married Filing Jointly will be eligible to use this tool. Those who filed as Married Filing Separately or Head of Household, or who filed an amended or foreign tax return, will not be eligible to use the data retrieval tool and must enter the data manually.

Why should I use it?
Two reasons: (1) as long as you meet certain criteria, you won't have to manually enter your tax data after you've filed your 2015 return, and (2) using data retrieval reduces your chance of being selected for federal verification.

When will my tax return data be available to use?
Generally, if you filed your return electronically, you can use the IRS data retrieval tool in 2-3 weeks. If you filed a paper return, you'll need to allow 8-11 weeks before using it. More detailed information is available through

How do I use it?
Review our Guide to Using IRS Data Retrieval for step-by-step instructions on using this tool. 

Understanding Federal Verification
Every year, the U.S. Department of Education selects a number of financial aid applications for review. This process of review is called verification. If you are selected for verification, we are required to confirm that the information you submitted on your application is correct, which means we must ask you for additional documentation.

How will I know if I'm selected?
If you've been selected for verification, we'll send you an email. We typically begin sending emails about verification in February.

If I'm selected, what will I have to submit?
Most students who have been selected will have to send us a verification worksheet, as well as a copy of both student and parent tax return transcripts. (Many times, however, correcting your FAFSA using the IRS data retrieval tool will eliminate the need to submit a tax transcript.) The email you receive from our office will help you determine exactly what to submit.

How do I obtain a tax return transcript?
Tax return transcripts must come directly from the IRS, and can be downloaded online through the IRS website. Review our step-by-step instructions to help you through the process. Remember: you will only need to submit a transcript if you are selected for verification.

If I'm selected, when do I need to submit this additional documentation?
As soon as possible! We cannot create a financial aid award package for you until this process is complete. So the sooner documents are submitted, the sooner you'll have your award offer.

Learn more about verification >>

In two weeks: Understanding Cost of Attendance

Want to review past Financial Aid 101 emails? Check out the archives!

Contact Us:

Financial Aid • University Hall 255 • 2197 S. University Blvd • Denver, CO 80208

Ph: 303.871.4020 • Fax: 303.871.2341 • Email:

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