Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool
The FAFSA becomes available on October 1st, and with it comes the opportunity to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), a mechanism within the FAFSA that allows families to electronically access federal tax return data in order to answer application questions. The IRS DRT greatly simplifies and quickens the FAFSA completion process and helps ensure that accurate information is communicated to college financial aid offices. To make certain that personal information is kept safe and private, the IRS DRT takes some precautions that users will notice as they utilize the tool.
- Once an individual transfers data from the IRS website to the FAFSA, he or she will not see the actual tax return figures on the screen (or in the Student Aid Report (SAR)). Instead, the phrase, "Transferred from the IRS" will appear in each appropriate answer field. The financial aid officer reviewing the application will be able to view the tax data.
- Because tax return figures will not appear within the application, users will not have the opportunity to edit the data. Should anyone need to alter any tax return information (an unlikely scenario), that person would need to contact each college financial aid office with the necessary changes.
- Because the IRS data does not appear within the FAFSA, an individual may be asked a few additional questions after using the tool. Any person who has an amount over $0 of untaxed portions of IRS distributions or untaxed portions of pensions will be asked if those amounts include a rollover. If the individual answers with a yes response, he or she will need to report the rollover amount. As well, any joint filers will need to manually enter their income earned in the tax year from working. Single filers will automatically have this information transferred by the IRS DRT.
- Families are permitted to submit the FAFSA without using the IRS DRT, and instead manually input tax return figures, but it opens up the opportunity for the family to make a data reporting error. It also may cause the family to be selected for Verification, a step that prolongs the financial aid process and requires a family to submit additional documentation to the financial aid office.
In order to use the IRS DRT, you will need to enter your FSA ID, the username and password that will also be used to electronically sign the FAFSA, so make sure you secure that before starting the FAFSA.