Financial Aid

IRS Data Retrieval Will Be Delayed Unit Next FAFSA Season

The United States Department of Education (ED) and the IRS earlier this month unexpectedly shutdown the IRS Data Retrieval Tool used by millions of students each year to apply for federal student aid. In an update today, the department said the tool won’t be available until the start of the next FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) season, which starts Oct. 1, “until extra security protections can be added.”

The tool, which allows students to automatically import tax information onto their FAFSA, was disabled due to security concerns that personal information could potentially be misused by identity thieves. The IRS has been working with the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office to return the tool to service, while taking additional steps “to identify the number of taxpayers affected by questionable use of the Data Retrieval Tool,” according to the update.

“While this tool provides an important convenience for applicants, we cannot risk the safety of taxpayer data,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in the press release. “Protecting taxpayer data has to be the highest priority, and we will continue working with FSA to bring this tool back in a safe and secure manner.”

Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, told Politico that his group was disappointed about the extended outage and criticized officials' response. "While we understand the need to ensure proper security, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's statement that this tool merely provides a 'convenience for applicants' portrays a disheartening lack of understanding about how vital this tool has become in streamlining the financial aid application process."