Guidance on 1098-T and Pandemic Relief (HEERF) Funds
By: Christy Blakney, Student Business Services (SBS) Consultant
First, The Good News
Collecting and reporting correct information on IRS Form 1098-T seems to continually cause challenges. The good news is that there are no substantive changes to reporting for the 2022 tax year and past year challenges for properly reporting pandemic relief (HEERF) funds have been firmly answered. The Internal Revenue Service previously clarified that the emergency relief funds paid directly to students, or for which the student directed to be applied to their account balance, should be treated the same as any personal payment.
Treatment of Various Fund Types
Note that the IRS guidance only applies to funds under Section 3504 (additional Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant funds), Section 18004 (HEERF), Section 18008 (Howard University, Gallaudet University), Section 314 of the COVID Relief Act, and Section 2003 of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). It may not apply to funds that came through the states under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund under Section 18002(c)(2) of the CARES Act. Institutions that received those funds from their states could use them to fund institutional grants to students. Absent guidance to the contrary, those grants to students should likely be reported on the 1098-T in the same manner as other institutional aid, especially for state tax reporting purposes. Additionally, funds received by the institution and used to “write off” delinquent student account balances may need to be reported to the student on a 1099-C as a cancellation of debt. Be sure to consult your tax office for applicability.
Inform Your Students
While school officials want to be very clear that we will never provide tax advice, you should provide information that lets them know how each amount reported on the 1098-T was calculated. The IRS allows institutions a wide range of flexibility in reporting to allow for differences in policy and timing but that is exactly what makes a 1098-T confusing to some taxpayers. Many taxpayers expect the form to report “plug and play” amounts similar to a W-2 or 1099 but unfortunately, that is simply not true. Providing a detailed supplement of the calculations is not always feasible so it is important to clearly state your school’s policies with regard to items such as treatment of deposits, exemptions, waivers, contracts, and also the school’s choice of reporting spring charges (Box 7 option). These helpful tips can be reported on your own 1098-T FAQ site or as a communication that accompanies your 1098-T form.
At a minimum, sharing the link to the IRS FAQs may help reduce questions directed to your office and will support your calculation method for reporting amounts on the 1098-T.
Remember to Solicit Students’ TINs
And, finally, make sure you continue to follow IRS guidance to send a written solicitation (e-mail and other electronic communications are considered “written”) to any student who has not provided their taxpayer identification number (TIN), e.g., Social Security number. Best practices suggest sending this solicitation at least twice before sending your file to the IRS. Rules require schools to file 1098-Ts even if the student fails to provide his/her TIN. Proof of an annual request protects the institution from being assessed penalties for filing a 1098-T without a TIN. Also, consider working with your Registrar’s Office to coordinate this information-gathering function. Also, be sure you “check the box” on the IRS copy of your 1098-T file indicating you have complied with this solicitation requirement during 2022.
If a student fails to provide you with their TIN prior to the institution submitting their 1098-T file to the IRS, the IRS indicates that you should not issue a corrected form simply to add or correct personal information. Corrected forms are only necessary if reported amounts were calculated incorrectly and are being changed.
Still Have Questions
Student Business Services can help your institution review its existing business practices related to 1098-T and other reporting requirements. Together, we can develop a comprehensive managerial reporting plan that is easy to execute and ensures you will meet regulatory deadlines. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.