Cleveland State University

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FAFSA and IRS Data Retrieval Process

Financial aid offices can no longer accept signed copies of federal tax returns from students and parents for verification purposes. Verification is a federally required process whereby CSU confirms that the data reported on the FAFSA is accurate.

There is now an easier and faster way to provide tax information when completing the FAFSA. You will be prompted to enter your federal PIN and link to the IRS web site. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will display your tax information and allow you to transfer the information directly into your FAFSA.

Before you begin the FAFSA process, be sure that either you or at least one of your parents has a federal PIN (Personal Identification Number). The PIN is an electronic signature necessary for completion of the online financial aid process. Apply for a PIN at

The following steps are required to use the IRS Data Retrieval Process when completing the FAFSA online:

  1. You must file your 2012 federal tax return(s) before you file your FAFSA.Allow two weeks for electronic filing and eight weeks for paper filing for the IRS to process your return(s) in order for you to be able to use the IRS retrieval tool.
  2. If you indicate on the FAFSA that your tax return has been filed, an information box will appear and you will be asked a series of questions to determine if you can use the IRS Retrieval Tool.

Certain tax filers will not be able to use the tool and may need to request an IRS tax transcript to be used in the verification process.

    • To successfully use the IRS Data Retrieval Process you must:
      • Have a federal tax return filed with the IRS
      • Have a valid social security number
      • Have a Federal Aid Personal Identification Number (PIN)
    • You will not be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Process if:
      • Your marital status changes after December 31, 2012
      • You filed your tax return "married filing separately"
      • You filed an amended tax return
      • You filed a foreign tax return

How the IRS Data Retrieval Tool works:

CSU encourages all students and parents who file the FAFSA to select the IRS Data Retrieval tool. This process will allow you to access to a secure IRS website which will do a data match with the IRS. Then the IRS will transfer income data to the FAFSA processor and on all successfully matches files, a notation such as "Transferred from the IRS" will appear on the FAFSA. This will help avoid errors and processing delays.

Student files that have a successful IRS match will not have to provide an IRS tax transcript to CSU. However, other documentation may be required as part of the federal verification process.

IMPORTANT: If you filed your 2013-2014 FAFSA and did not use the IRS tool, you may go back online and request that your 2012 tax return data be retrieved from the IRS database and loaded onto your FAFSA. CSU will receive this update and if there is a successful match, it may eliminate the need for you to obtain an IRS Tax Transcript.

How to obtain a free transcript from the IRS:

If your FAFSA is selected for verification and you did not use the IRS retrieval process or you changed your IRS data, you will be required to request a tax transcript directly from the IRS. Personal copies of federal tax returns can no longer be accepted by CSU for verification purposes.

There are three ways to request an IRS Tax Transcript:

  • By Phone: Available from the IRS by calling 1-800-908-9946
  • Online: Available on the IRS Web site at
  • If successfully validated, it will take 5-10 days from the time the on-line request was successfully transmitted to the IRS.
  • By mail. Mail the completed IRS Form 4506T-EZ to the appropriate address provided on page 2 of Form 4506T-EZ.

** Tax filers can expect to receive their transcript within 5 to 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. **