The Internal Revenue Service’s removal of a popular tool that helps students apply for financial aid has made it even more important for students to file their aid applications early and to fill out the forms correctly – otherwise, they’ll be at greater risk of delays in receiving their money.
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool was created to help students and their families more efficiently and accurately report required financial data on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), which is the form students are required to submit to determine their eligibility for aid.
The IRS removed the tool in March “due to security concerns.”
Millions of people use the online tool to import their income tax information into the financial aid form. Now students and their families must type in the information directly, and that could increase the likelihood of errors – making it more important for students and families to be certain they are inputting the correct information.
For example, students and families must use their 2015 tax information for both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 FAFSA. They cannot use their 2016 tax information. Using 2016 tax information would be flagged as an error by the federal government and could delay the receipt of financial aid.
Error rates nationwide could increase as a result of the online tool not being available, which means more applications could get flagged by the federal government, creating a backlog of applications that require additional reviews.
UCF administrators are encouraging students and their families to file as soon as possible to avoid potential delays in receiving aid. Delays could result in students not getting their financial aid for up to six weeks into the semester.
“We don’t want that to happen to our students,” said Alicia Keaton, UCF’s director of Student Financial Assistance. “So, we are asking them to get their applications in now, ASAP, so there is time to resolve any issues.”
What should students do?
- Students should act now.
- File your application at www.fafsa.gov.
- Because the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is not available, you must manually enter your and/or your family’s 2015 tax information.
- Remember, you will use your 2015 tax information for both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 FAFSA.
- If you already filed your application and used incorrect information, go back into your application and correct it now.
- If you do not have your income tax information handy, request a tax transcript now by contacting the IRS at www.irs.gov/transcript, by calling 1-800-908-9946 or to request a hardcopy in the mail go to Get Transcript by Mail .
If students make an error on the form, their application will be flagged by the feds. Student will then have to seek out a 2015 income tax transcript from the IRS and then submit it to UCF for verification and to correct the error.
UCF is reaching out to students in a variety of ways, including creating a new website http://finaid.ucf.edu/completing-the-fafsa-without-the-irs-data-retrieval-tool/, calling students via phone and using social media to communicate with students and parents.