Can We Accept a Copy Of the Tax Return That Is Signed With a Stylus On a Phone or Pad?

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This guidance is not award-year-specific and applies across award years.

2022-23 Verification Waiver: Beginning May 18, 2022 and for the remainder of the 2022-23 FAFSA processing and verification cycle, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) waives verification of all FAFSA/ISIR information, except for identity/Statement of Educational Purpose in Verification Tracking Groups V4 and V5. See Dear Colleague Letter GEN-22-06 and AskRegs Q&A, How Do We Implement the Verification Waiver For the Remainder Of 2022-23?, for guidance. The following guidance is still relevant depending on context and/or application of the waiver.

This AskRegs Q&A was updated on February 22, 2021 to include guidance that was added to Chapter 4 of the Application and Verification Guide volume beginning with the 2021-22 FSA Handbook.

Scenario: Some students and/or parents are unable to: 1) obtain a tax transcript from the IRS; and 2) print/sign/scan the online copy of the tax return that was filed with the IRS and provide a wet signature. Their only option is to provide a stylus signature on the copy of the tax return itself. This has become a huge challenge for our office. It's impacting students and families who do not have a printer/scanner/copier/fax machine in their homes. Students and parents completed their taxes online with TurboTax or some other vendor and they only have the online tax return.

Answer: Yes. According to Chapter 4 of the Application and Verification Guide volume of the FSA Handbook:

"You can accept a paper or electronic copy of the return as long as it contains a signature. Acceptable examples would include, but are not limited to:

  1. A signed paper return that the student either mailed or brought to the school.
  2. A signed paper return that the student faxed or scanned and emailed.
  3. An electronic copy that the student signed with a stylus or finger.
  4. An electronic copy that we consider signed because it has an image of the student’s signature attached.

However, a signature on Form 8879, the IRS e-file Signature Authorization, is not an acceptable substitute for a signature on the tax return."

Note: This is general verification guidance and not specific to COVID-19, meaning it applies even after the COVID-related qualifying emergency is over. It also applies to the 2020-21 award year.

See also AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A, Whose Signature Is Required on a Copy of the Tax Return That Is Accepted In Place of a Tax Transcript?

AskRegs Q&As represent NASFAA's understanding of regulatory and compliance issues. They are FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. While NASFAA believes AskRegs Q&As are accurate and factual, they have not been reviewed or approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). If you should need written confirmation of AskRegs information for audit or program review purposes, please contact your ED School Participation Division. NASFAA shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein; nor for incidental or consequential damages resulting from the furnishing, performance, or use of this material.