In one of my October blog posts I covered the topic of requesting an online tax transcript from the IRS. That is all well and good for certain taxpayers, you might think, but what about people who are not required to file tax returns for some reason? Most often it is the dependent student who is not required to file, but sometimes it is a parent as well. The most common reason for not filing a federal tax return is that the income earned falls below the designated threshold, but keep in mind that you still need to file a return if you are entitled to a tax refund.
If you need to supply additional information or have received a request for verification from the financial aid office at your selected college, you will need to complete a non-tax filer form to confirm that you have no current tax returns on file with the IRS. The process used is similar to that for the tax transcript, but you need to complete a different section of the form you obtain from the IRS:
• Visit the IRS website at irs.gov.
• Navigate to the “Get Transcript” section under the “Tools” menu.
• Click on “Form 4506-T,” Request for Transcript of Tax Return.
• Complete the name and contact information, making sure that the information you supply exactly matches that on file with the IRS.
• If you want to have the verification mailed directly to a specific college, you will need to provide an address and may need to create a ten digit customer file number (if applicable). This is due to the fact that information now provided by the IRS will mask any personally identifiable information, such as a Social Security Number.
• Go to Line 7 and check the box for “Verification of Nonfiling, which is proof from the IRS that you did not file a return for the year. Current year requests are only available after June 15. There are no availability restrictions on prior year requests. Most requests will be processed within 10 business days.”
• Enter the year or period requested, sign and date your form, and submit it to the IRS.
Usually the IRS will be able to mail a Verification of Non-Filing Letter (VONF) within a ten day period of time. Note that sending this form is not a conformation of whether or not an individual was required to file a tax return – only that there is no information on file that a return was filed for the specific period requested.
If you cannot secure a VONF for some reason, you may be able to submit alternative documentation from the IRS that indicates non-filing status if that documentation includes the tax year, your name, and your SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. If your initial request form was inaccurate or incomplete in some way, for example, the IRS may send a version of Form 13873. In most cases, the Department of Education authorizes “any version of IRS Form 13873 that clearly states that the form is provided to the individual as verification of nonfiling or that states that the IRS has no record of a tax return is acceptable documentation of nonfiling.”
If you have the VONF sent to you and not directly to the college financial aid offices, you will need to send it on to them as soon as possible so that they can proceed on determining your financial aid eligibility. Taxpayers who would typically file a Puerto Rican or Foreign Income Tax Return must submit appropriate non-filing documentation from a relevant tax authority relating to their return.
Even if you did not file a tax return, you still need to complete the FAFSA in order to be eligible for many forms of financial aid. Students searching for college scholarships that are income-based or applying for private student loans might also need to obtain non-filer verification to support their claims. If you need to provide any type of documentation, it is always best to do it as quickly as possible. Keep checking your portals and mailbox so you don’t miss any notifications.