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Verification is the process schools use to ensure the accuracy of the information reported on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). About 1 in every 4 FAFSA filers is selected by the Department of Education to document their income, family size and other FAFSA data.

Your customized Verification Worksheet explains what data you need to submit, and is available under Financial Aid Requirements in your MyBethel checklist.

When completing the FAFSA, many financial aid applicants are able to transfer their tax information onto the FAFSA directly from the IRS. Bethel encourages applicants to utilize this process. If you transfer the data from the IRS directly to your FAFSA, you will see the words "transferred from the IRS" in the data entry fields on the FAFSA. 

How will I know I've been selected?

After submitting your FAFSA, you'll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) from the Department of Education, which indicates if you're selected for verification. If you're selected, Bethel will send you a personalized Verification Form outlining the process.

What documents do I need to submit if I'm selected?

Documents will vary by student and by academic year. Your Verification Form will indicate what you must verify, along with instructions for how to submit the information. The Department of Education can adjust or add to the items they ask the school to verify. If this happens, we will contact you to request this additional documentation.

What tax year do I need to provide income documentation for?

The FAFSA for 2023-2024 collects income information from your 2021 taxes. The 2022-2023 FAFSA collects 2020 tax information.

How do I verify my income?

If you filed a Federal Income Tax return, you have options:

1. IRS Data Retrieval. This is the preferred method for verifying income.

  • How: You can access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool by logging in to FAFSA and following the online instructions to "make a correction." The tool will load your information directly from the IRS. You will not be able to see the numbers that are transferred to the FAFSA. The fields that are transferred will show "transferred from the IRS" after they have been populated. Be sure to submit the correction after you finish transferring the data. 
  • When: Since the tax filing deadline for 2021 passed, you should be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval unless one of the circumstances listed below exists.
  • Who: Only tax filers can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. If parents and students both filed taxes, then both must use the retrieval tool.
  • Circumstances that prevent you from using the retrieval tool:
    • Did not indicate on the FAFSA that the tax return has been completed
    • Married and filed the tax return as (a) head of household or (b) married but filing a separate return
    • If dependent, neither parent entered a valid Social Security number on the FAFSA
    • Filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return
    • Applicants whose marital status changed after the calendar year for which taxes were filed
    • Hints: Visit Federal Student Aid for more information about the IRS Data Retrieval tool. When submitting your request to the IRS for a tax return transcript your street address must match the address in the IRS Database. You can look up your address through the U.S. Post Office to ensure you use standard abbreviations and formatting. For example, street should be entered as "ST" not "street".

2. Federal Tax Return Transcript. If you cannot use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you must contact the IRS to obtain a tax return transcript. After you receive it, you must submit it to the Bethel University Office of Financial Aid. Please use our secure document upload tool to send documents.

  • Get Transcript by MAIL - Go to IRS. Select "Get Your Tax Record." Click "Get Transcript by Mail."  Make sure to request the "Return Transcript" NOT the "Account Transcript." The transcript is generally received within 10 business days from the IRS's receipt of the online request.
  • Get Transcript ONLINE - Go to IRS. Select "Get Your Tax Record." Click "Get Transcript Online." Review and complete the identity authorization process. If asked for a reason for the tax transcript select Higher Education/Student Aid. You should request the "Return Transcript" NOT the "Account Transcript." After successful authentication you will be able to view, print, or download your transcript.
  • Automated Telephone Request - 1-800-908-9946. Follow the prompts and select "Option 2" to request a Tax Return Transcript NOT a Tax Account Transcript. The transcript is generally received with 10 business days from the IRS's receipt of the telephone request.
  • Paper Request Form - IRS Form 4506T-EZ or IRS Form 4506-T (pdf). Carefully complete the form and request a "Return Transcript." The transcript is generally received with 10 business days from the IRS's receipt of the paper request form.

3. Federal Tax Return. Using Data Retrieval or obtaining a tax return transcript from the IRS are the preferred methods for documenting income. However, the Department of Education now allows schools to accept a SIGNED copy of the federal income tax return as acceptable documentation of income for tax filers. Income verification for 2023-2024 requires a signed copy of the federal 1040 for the 2021 tax year along with schedules 1, 2 and 3. Income documentation for the 2022-2023 award year requires a signed copy of the 2020 federal tax return and schedules 1 through 3 if applicable. Additional schedules or forms may be required to resolve conflicting information. Please use our secure document upload tool to send documents.


If you cannot use any of these methods, please document the issue you're experiencing and email Bethel's Financial Aid Office so we can advise you. 

How should I send the required information?

Tax documentation and other forms containing personally identifiable information should not be sent via email. Please use our secure document upload tool. You may also send documents via the U.S. Postal service or via fax 651-635-1491. If you send documents via one of these methods make sure to print the full name of the student (and Bethel ID number if known) at the top of the document.

Can I verify my income if I don't file a federal income tax return?

Non-tax filers who need to verify income should complete and submit the Verification Form received from Bethel. Be sure to include copies of W-2s, or a statement indicating why a W-2 was not received. 

In addition to the documentation that the verification form collects, non-tax filers may be required to obtain an IRS Verification of Non-filing letter. The verification of non-filing letter indicates that an Income Tax return was not filed with the IRS. Dependent students are exempt from the provision to provide the verification of non-filing letter. However, parents who are non-filers; independent students (and their spouses) must all provide this non-filing letter from the IRS.

What is a Verification of Non-filing Letter and how do I get one?

The "Verification of Non-filing Letter" is a letter obtained from the IRS which states that the individual requesting it did not file a tax return for the calendar year it is requested for. This documentation from the IRS is required when the student's FAFSA is selected for verification. Parents who did not file tax returns and independent students (and their spouses) are required to provide this documentation to the Bethel University Office of Financial Aid.

One method for obtaining an IRS Verification of Non-filing letter is to use the IRS Get Transcript Online service. If you have a credit security freeze in place with Equifax, additional steps may be required to register. A Verification of Non-filing letter is not available via the "Get Transcript by Mail" service. Please see the Get Transcript frequently asked Questions for more information. 

Another method for obtaining an IRS Verification of Non-filing letter is by using IRS Form 4506-T (pdf). Complete the form and check box 7. Mail or fax the form to the IRS. After you receive the Non-filing letter from the IRS, please send a copy of the letter to the Office of Financial Aid. Make sure to print the student's full name and Bethel ID# (if known) on the document.

The verification of non-filing letter must be dated on or after October 1st of the tax year being verified. (Example: Financial Aid Applicants for the 2023-2024 must document 2021 income information. Non-filing letters from the IRS would need to be dated on or after October 1, 2022).

If the non-filer is unable to obtain a Verification of Non-filing Letter from the IRS after attempting to do so, the non-filer should contact the Financial Aid Office at Bethel University for further instructions.

What happens if there are discrepancies in my FAFSA?

After all required documents are submitted, Bethel will compare them to your FAFSA. If we find errors, we'll make corrections and send them to the U.S. Department of Education for reprocessing. If we have questions we will contact you for clarification before making changes.

When do I need to complete verification?

We recommend all families submit verification materials by July 1, prior to the start of fall term.

If you do not complete the verification process before the term of your enrollment has ended, you jeopardize receiving any federal aid for the term. Any delay in submitting all required documents will delay your financial aid, which may result in you being responsible for paying all or part of your bill until your financial aid disbursement takes place.

Individuals who have filed extensions, or who are self-employed and file their taxes later in the year, are not excused from the verification process. 

If you are selected, you must complete the verification process to be eligible for federal, state, or institutional need-based aid or federal loans.

How long does a data correction take?

It takes 10 business days for the verification review process and an additional 10 business days if corrections are needed. More time may be necessary during peak periods (February through August).

Why is my information being verified?

The federal government or Bethel's Office of Financial Aid may select your application for verification at any time. The goal is to ensure you've provided accurate information so that you will be awarded the correct amount of aid.

While there are several reasons why a student may be selected for verification, some leading causes are:

  • Incomplete FAFSA
  • FAFSA data appears to contradict itself
  • FAFSA has estimated information on it
  • Random selection

What items are being verified?

You may be asked to provide documentation or clarification for one or more of the following items on your FAFSA (your personalized Verification Form will indicate exactly which of these items you will be required to verify):

  • Adjusted gross income
  • Taxes paid
  • Income earned from work (for non-tax filers)
  • Untaxed income items
  • Number of family members in the household
  • Number of family members enrolled in college (excluding parents for a dependent student)
  • Identity
  • Any inconsistent or conflicting information (including name, date of birth, social security number, etc.)

What if I'm a victim of identy 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 tax transcript(s) that include all of the income and tax information required to be verified. The individual must also provide a statement signed and dated by the tax filer, indicating that he or she was a victim of IRS tax-related identity theft and that the IRS is aware of the tax-related identity theft. Tax filers who were victims of IRS tax-related identity theft should contact the IRS's Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) at 1-800-908-4490 to request a TRDBV transcript.

What if I had an IRA or Pension Rollover?

If the tax filer was able to use the IRS Data Retrieval tool when the FAFSA was filed, the tax filer should provide a signed and dated tax return transcript from the IRS or a signed and dated copy of the federal tax return, with the word "Rollover" written beside the applicable item(s). Alternatively, the tax filer may provide a written, signed statement to the Financial Aid Office indicating the amount of the original distribution, and the amount that was excluded because it was an authorized IRS rollover. 

What if I filed an amended tax return?

Tax filers who amended their tax returns need to provide the Financial Aid Office with a copy of a Tax Return Transcript from the IRS or any other alternative IRS tax transcript containing all income and tax information from the original tax return required for verification and a copy of the IRS form 1040X (signed by the taxpayer) which was filed with the IRS. 

If the taxpayer is unable to provide a tax return transcript, a signed copy of the original tax return that was filed with the IRS may be submitted along with the signed 1040X.