Monday, December 17, 2007

Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan

The ICR Plan gives borrowers the flexibility to meet their obligations without causing them financial hardship. Monthly payments are based on borrowers’ annual Adjusted Gross Incomes (AGI), loan balance and family sizes. Income is obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or from an Alternative Documentation of Income Form (discussed below) submitted by the borrowers.

To participate in the ICR Plan, borrowers (and if married, their spouse) must sign the Income Contingent Repayment Plan Consent to Disclosure of Tax Information Form. This authorizes the IRS to release borrowers' income information to the Department of Education to calculate monthly payments. Monthly payments are adjusted annually to reflect inflation, family size and income.

Monthly payment amounts for some borrowers may not be enough to cover the interest accruing on their loans. This situation is referred to as negative amortization. In such cases, the unpaid interest is capitalized and added to the principal balance once per year. The amount added to the principal balance will never exceed 10 percent of the original Direct Consolidation Loan amount. Once this capitalization limit has been reached, interest continues to accrue but is not capitalized. The capitalization limit does not apply to interest that accrues during deferment or forbearance.

The maximum repayment period for the ICR Plan is 25 years, less any time spent in ICR and the Standard repayment plan. Time spent in several other plans may not count toward the 25 year maximum. If the Direct Consolidation Loan is not repaid after 25 years, the unpaid portion is discharged. Borrowers must pay taxes on portions discharged after 25 years.

Alternative documentation of income is required for Direct Consolidation Loan borrowers if their underlying loans were in the first or second year of repayment when they were consolidated. Alternative documentation includes pay stubs, canceled checks, or, if these are unavailable, signed statements explaining income resources.