Manual input is greater than copy and paste

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Most of the time college students find the copy and paste function on computers to be the most helpful tool available.

Last year, when some San Joaquin Delta College students went to renew their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (commonly known as the FAFSA)  for the 2018 – 2019 year, many opted to copy and paste the data from last year, since the form wanted our parents’ 2016 tax information again. It all seemed simple enough. I was one of them.

What I and other students did not know, however, was that the copy and paste process had inadvertently listed our parents’ income in two places. That made it seem, to the machines and people reviewing the FAFSA form data that we had as much income as our parents. In fact, we are dependants and have no separate income of our own.

Life at Delta went on as usual for those who made this mistake. Finals came and went and then after a long summer we enrolled in classes for the Fall 2018 semester.

Then came the surprise: registration fees.

I and others were told that, for the first time, we owe hundreds of dollars in fees. We didn’t expect this because in the past we qualified  for the California College Promise Grant (formerly known as a BOG waiver). Many of us tried to figure what happened on our own. We couldn’t, so we came back to school a few weeks early to try to figure it out with the assistance of staff at the Financial Aid Department.

It isn’t an easy fix for some people. In the past, when someone was  asked to prove that they did not file taxes all they had to do was say so.

This year a “transcript of nonfiling” along with your parents’ Internal Revenue Service transcript was requested by the school. The process takes weeks to resolve.

Many of us have little to no experience with the IRS. Some of us assumed we wouldn’t have to interact with that agency for at least a few more years.

Here are some tips if you are still dealing with the dreaded IRS and Financial Aid Department.

Be positive that you’re putting in the correct social security number if you want to request your transcript online. Double and triple check.

Make a copies of every piece of paper with your or your parents’ information on it before you submit it. If you are certain that you turned something in and Financial Aid Department staff members tell you they did not receive it, pull out the receipts on them.

Documents should be held in a white security envelope or opaque folder.

Never leave your sensitive information in the drop box at school. The Financial Aid office advises that you always take it to the window. Staff members say that leaving documents in the dropbox will lengthen the process.

The IRS office number is (209) 476-7501 in case you need to schedule an appointment. The office is at 4643 Quail Lakes Drive, Stockton, CA 95207.

Staff at the IRS office should be able to manually get your desired information. Be sure to ask what specific documents you will need when you schedule your appointment, this will save you a lot of time once you arrive.

The IRS does not call anyone. If you are receiving an “urgent phone call” from an unknown or untraceable phone number, it is a scam fishing for your information. This is scary, especially when you are expecting anything from the IRS. Don’t worry and just wait to hear from the agency in the mail. If IRS personnel want to conduct business over the phone, they’ll have you call. The bulk of the process when dealing with the IRS is analog so don’t give your info out over the phone or digitally unless you are the one reaching out.

Even though your parents may have spent many years of their lives dealing with the IRS for one reason or another, they are most likely not the experts you think they are. Sometimes your parents will not know what they are doing when it comes to this stuff and that is okay. If you need to see a professional, go do it. It will save you some time and money.