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How to Recertify and Renew Your Income Driven Repayment Plan Each Year
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Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans can lower your monthly student loan payment, as well as extend your loan term, based on your income and family size. However, the government requires you to renew your income-driven repayment plan every year, even if your info remains the same.
Here are the key steps to recertify income-based repayment plans, plus what happens if you miss the renewal deadline.
When is the recertification deadline?
Your student loan provider(s) will notify you when your recertification date is approaching. You should aim to submit all paperwork early, even months before the due date. This way you can relax knowing your servicer received everything in time while avoiding the risk of having your IDR plan terminated.
Set a reminder to ensure you meet the recertification deadlines, because missing them can result in various penalties (more on this below). Your annual recertification will likely fall 12 months after you initially entered your IDR plan. For example, if your IDR plan started in March, you can expect to submit recertification documents by the following March.
How to recertify your income-driven repayment plan?
There are currently four types of income-driven repayment plans:
- Income-based repayment (IBR)
- Income-contingent repayment (ICR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
All IDR plans require you to submit updated income documentation and family status for your annual recertification, even if nothing has changed. This is to ensure you’re on the right student loan repayment plan.
The IDR recertification form requires you to submit the following information:
- Type of request: Check that you are recertifying your loans rather than filing a new application.
- Family size: If you have children or are expecting a child, add the appropriate number of kids to the form.
- Your spouse’s information: The form will prompt you to enter your marital status and whether your spouse has federal loans.
- Proof of income: You must submit your most recent tax return to show your updated income. If you don’t have your tax return, you may submit alternative documentation, such as recent pay stubs or a letter from your employer.
- Signature: Your signature is your guarantee that all information is accurate.
Recertify income-driven repayment plan online
If you have access to a computer, the electronic recertification tool is simple and easy to use. Follow these steps to complete the process in approximately 10 minutes:
- Create a federal student aid (FSA) ID if you don’t already have one
- Go to the Federal Student Aid’s income-driven repayment plan page
- Scroll down to “Returning IDR Borrowers”
- Click “Log In to Recertify” (use your FSA ID to log in)
- Follow instructions and upload any required documents
You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer your latest tax returns to your FSA account. This is the quickest way to update and verify your income — plus, it creates a digital trail in case your servicer claims they didn’t receive your documents in time.
If you’re not yet ready to complete the form but you need more details, click “View Demo” beneath the login button.
Recertify income-driven repayment by paper
You can download and print the income-driven repayment application if you prefer to submit hard copies. You can also contact your loan servicer to request a blank form.
Each loan servicer has a different address, so make sure to contact each to get the correct mailing address. Keep in mind that only federal student loans are eligible for IDR plans so no need to worry about recertification for your private student loans.
It’s recommended that you submit your student loan recertification online whenever possible. It’s more efficient and ensures your servicer receives all required documents in time.
Can you recertify income-driven plans early?
When you sign up for an IDR program, your payment amount may not stay the same for your entire repayment period. As your income decreases or increases, your payments will adjust accordingly.
The government only requires you to recertify your income and household size once a year, but it’s okay to do it more often. For example, if you’ve been laid off or have had to accept a lower-paying job, you can recertify your income early to get a reduced monthly payment.
To recertify ahead of schedule, you can recalculate your IDR’s monthly payment online or submit the paper IDR form.
What can delay the recertification process?
According to the Department of Education, over half of borrowers fail to recertify their IBR plans. Why does this happen?
Some might skip recertification because they make too much and therefore assume they’re ineligible. But many borrowers typically forget or run into technical difficulties when trying to recertify.
Your lender should send you a reminder to recertify. However, reminders can go missing, making it easy to overlook this yearly deadline.
And even if you submit everything on time, there’s no guarantee everything will be processed on time. Since IDR recertification depends on tax returns and shared deadlines, servicers may feel overwhelmed, causing papers to get lost in the shuffle.
What happens if you fail to recertify?
Ensuring you file your recertification on schedule is essential to maintaining your IDR plan.
Here’s what happens depending on your plan type:
- REPAYE: You’ll automatically switch to an alternative repayment plan, and payments won’t be adjusted based on income. If eligible for another plan, you can apply to switch.
- IBR, ICR, PAYE: You’ll remain on the same IDR plan but your income won’t adjust your payments. Additionally, your unpaid interest will capitalize, adding it to your principal balance. Because of this, you’ll pay interest on top of interest, which can be very costly. You can get back on your plan by submitting the correct information to see if you qualify for income-based payments.
For those using automatic payments, your servicer may deduct too much, resulting in overdrafts and penalties.
Note also that if you don’t recertify your family size — under any of the plans — your servicer will assume a family of one. This could increase your monthly payments or cause you to lose eligibility.
Applying ahead of the deadline is your responsibility. Pay attention to your lender’s recertification notice and set calendar reminders to keep you on track.
An IDR plan can be a financial lifesaver when trying to keep up with your student loan payments on a limited income. Submitting your income-driven repayment plan application is an important task you must complete each year to ensure your payments stay proportional to your income.