"The 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available to complete online October 1, 2017 and with the IRS Data Retrieval Tool having been taken down last year, I reached out to Karen McCarthy, Director of Policy Analysis for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) to gain clarification around the tool's availability this year. Below are her responses to my questions," Troy Onink writes for Forbes.
Is the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) available October 1st, 2017 to file the 2018-2019 FAFSA?
Yes. On October 1, students and parents will be able to fill out their FAFSAs for the 2018-19 academic year with the help of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). Last spring, the Department of Education and the IRS took the tool offline, as a result of concerns over identity theft. Although the DRT will be unavailable for the remainder of the 2017-18 FAFSA application year, the Department of Education has said it will be back up and operating on October 1 for the 2018-19 FAFSA application year.
What should parents know before filing their FAFSA?
The FAFSA asks for income and tax information from two tax years prior. That means on the 2018–19 FAFSA, students and their parents will report their 2016 income and tax information, rather than their 2017 income and tax information. This is great news because it means that students and parents don’t need to wait until their tax returns from the 2017 year are filed before applying—they can apply as early as October 1, which will give them more time to consider their options for paying for college.
In order to better protect financial aid applicants’ information, starting this year the Department of Education has announced the DRT will 'limit the information that displays to the applicant in order to enhance the security and privacy of sensitive personal data transferred to the FAFSA from the IRS.' Sensitive data, such as adjusted gross income, will not be displayed to the applicants.
Is there a way to file the FAFSA without using the Data Retrieval Tool? Is there a downside?
While using the tool is optional, it is still a more streamlined way to file the FAFSA. It pulls information directly from the IRS, so manual entry errors are eliminated. The DRT can also save students and their families time on the back end if they are selected for verification. DRT-provided information is already verified, so the verification process is much faster and easier if the applicant has used the DRT."
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Publication Date: 9/26/2017