You know you have to verify your income in order to refinance your mortgage. Unless, of course, you qualify for the VA streamline or FHA streamline loan. You aren’t required to verify your income if you use a streamline program.
But just what does it mean to verify your income? Do you need paystubs, W-2s, and tax returns?
There isn’t a straight answer to this question. It depends on the situation. Some borrowers will have to provide their tax returns, while others won’t need to provide them.
Salaried and Hourly Borrowers
Salaried and hourly borrowers typically don’t have to provide their tax returns when refinancing their mortgage. If you make a yearly salary and it stays the same all year, your lender won’t have a need for your tax returns. Your paystubs and W-2s will show the necessary information for the lender to qualify you for the loan.
Hourly employees are also exempt from providing their tax returns. Hourly employees will have to provide their paystubs covering the last 30 days and their W-2s covering the last 2 years. This way the lender can determine a 2-year average of your income. They do this in the event that your hours vary, which would give you varying income. Taking a 2-year average helps the lender account for the highs and lows that your income may experience.
Borrowers Paid on Commission
If you work on commission and it makes up more than 25% of your income, you will need to provide your tax returns for the last 2 years. Lenders will look at your tax returns to see if you have any unreimbursed employee expenses that they must deduct from your income. They will also look for any deductions that you take that are work-related. Lenders are required to use your adjusted gross income as it is reported on your tax returns. If you claim many deductions, it could affect your ability to secure a mortgage.
Finally, we have self-employed borrowers. These borrowers definitely need to provide the last two years of their tax returns. Just like borrowers paid on commission, lenders need to determine the adjusted gross income of the self-employed borrower.
Because the lender will use your AGI as reported on your tax returns, it works to your benefit to avoid taking too many deductions during the 2 years leading up to your loan application. Even though this will increase your tax liability temporarily, it will also increase your chances of securing a mortgage.
Don’t worry if your lender asks for your tax returns. It’s just another way for them to verify your income. As long as your tax returns are legitimate and they reflect what your paystubs and/or W-2s already show, you are in good hands. The lender will use your tax returns to calculate your gross monthly income, which they then use to determine your debt ratio. This is the lender’s way of determining if you can afford the loan and if you are a high risk of default.