FAQ: How does IRS' automated system for college financial aid work?

The IRS has unveiled the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DTR), a time-saving tool designed to minimize the time required for college-bound students and their parents to complete the Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The new IRS DTR is available through the website www.fafsa.gov.

The FAFSA form is necessary for college-bound students and their parents who are applying for numerous federal government education programs or subsidies, such as the Pell Grant, low-interest federal student loans, and the Federal Work Study Program. Eligible taxpayers may use the tool for either the initial or the renewal FAFSA.

Completion of the FAFSA requires certain federal tax information such as the student and parents’ adjusted gross income, tax, and exemptions. The free IRS DTR tool enables applicants to automatically transfer their tax return information onto the FAFSA form. The tool will also increase the accuracy of the income information reported on the FAFSA form and minimize processing delays. Taxpayers who are eligible to use the DRT can access it one to two weeks after the federal income tax return is filed if the return is filed electronically. In the cases of a paper tax return, taxpayers may access the tool approximately six to eight weeks after filing.

Who can use the DRT?

To use the DRT to complete the 2012–2013 FAFSA, taxpayers must meet several prerequisites:

  1. They must have filed a federal 2011 tax return;
  2. Have a valid SSN;
  3. Have a valid Federal Student Aid PIN; and
  4. Have not changed marital status since December 31, 2011.

What if I don’t have a PIN?

If an individual does not have a Federal Student Aid PIN, he or she may apply for one beforehand through the FAFSA application process. An online application is available at www.pin.ed.gov.

What if I can’t use the DRT?

In some cases the IRS DRT is unavailable. The tool is not accessible for completion of the 2012-2013 FAFSA if either the student or parents:

  1. Filed an amended 2011 tax return or did not file a 2011 tax return;
  2. Filed their 2011 tax return as married, filing separately; or
  3. Filed a foreign tax return or Puerto Rican tax return.

If a student cannot or chooses not to use the IRS DRT, that student, his or her parents or spouse can verify income information submitted to the Financial Aid Office through a tax transcript from the IRS. Applicants may request a transcript on IRS Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. Transcripts may be requested online through www.irs.gov or by phone at 1-800-908-9946.

If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.