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All federal student loan borrowers using income-driven repayment plans must resubmit information about their income and family size annually — even if nothing has changed. This process is known as recertification, and it can increase or decrease your payments for the next year.
Submit your recertification request online at studentloans.gov when your servicer first tells you the deadline. There’s no financial benefit to waiting if you’re worried about rising bills; updated payments don’t go into effect until your previous annual repayment period ends.
Here’s what to know about how to recertify income-based repayment, including what happens if you miss your recertification deadline.
When is your recertification deadline?
Your student loan servicer is required to let you know when your recertification paperwork is due. It’s smart to complete the process when you first learn this date, even if it’s months before your actual deadline. This will ensure you don’t forget to recertify and your servicer gets everything it needs in time.
If you choose to wait, set a reminder for your recertification date. Contact your servicer if you aren’t sure when it is. Your annual recertification deadline will likely align with when you entered your income-driven plan. You must submit your paperwork within 10 days following this deadline.
How to recertify your information
You can recertify Income-Based Repayment and the three other income-driven repayment plans either at studentaid.gov or by sending a paper form to your servicers. You’ll provide the same kind of information as when you initially applied for income-driven repayment:
Your family size.
Your most recent federal income tax return or tax transcript.
Alternate proof of any taxable income, like pay stubs, if you didn’t file taxes.
A signed statement explaining your income, if no documentation is available.
Recertifying online is typically faster and easier. Studentloans.gov offers online access to your tax records via the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, shares your request with multiple servicers (if you have them) and confirms your request via email. Having that digital trail may prove handy if your servicer says it hasn't received your information.
What happens if you forget to recertify?
If you miss your recertification deadline, you can enroll again in your plan or resume making payments based on your income by providing your servicer with updated information. This won’t undo any penalties that have already occurred, though.
The penalties depend on the income-driven plan you use. The following can happen:
Can you recertify student loans early?
If you need a lower payment right now because life happened — you lost your job or had a child, for example — you can recertify income-based repayment early and ask for an immediate payment adjustment.
If you recertify early, the process is the same. Just select the option for an immediate adjustment instead of annual recertification on your request. Otherwise, your new payment won’t go into effect until your current annual payment period ends.