The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2018-19 school year became available on October 1st, and millions of students can once again use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to electronically transfer their tax information directly into the form. (As we wrote about here, the DRT was taken down due to security concerns in March.) Unfortunately, the DRT will remain unavailable for students applying for aid for the 2017-18 school year, which runs through June 2018.
Due to the security enhancements made to the tool, there are a few important changes that students and families should be aware of while they fill out the FAFSA for the 2018-19 school year:
- To protect personal data from potential identity theft, the information transferred via the DRT will no longer be visible to the applicant on the online FAFSA or the Student Aid Report (SAR). Instead, those fields will display “Transferred from the IRS”. For 2018-19 applicants, the data will come directly from their 2016 tax return.
- An applicant will not be able to change the IRS data that is transferred via the DRT, but can contact colleges directly if their financial situation has changed or they or their parents file an amended tax return.
- The applicant may receive a letter in the mail from the IRS each time the DRT is accessed. They should not be alarmed by the official-looking IRS mail — it is an extra layer of protection!
The DRT is a crucial tool for students and families. It makes the FAFSA process much faster and easier, and reduces the burden of “verification” – a process that requires selected students to submit additional documentation before receiving the financial aid they qualify for. For more about the importance of this tool and why any applicant who can use the DRT should do so, see the National College Access Network’s recent blog post: “The IRS is Ready for FAFSA Season – Are You?”
We thank the Department of Education and IRS for working together to restore secure access to this critical tool, and for doing so without creating burdensome new authentication requirements that would have made it difficult for low-income students to use it.
For more information about the DRT outage and restoration, see our previous blog posts:
- March 2017: The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is Down Until October – What the Department of Education Should Be Doing Now
- April 2017: Loss of IRS Data Retrieval Tool Complicates Financial Aid Applications and Student Loan Repayment for Millions
- May 2017: Update on Restoration of IRS Data Retrieval Tool for Student Loan Borrowers and FAFSA Applicants
- June 2017: Great News! The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is Back Up for Student Loan Borrowers