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IRS online data retrieval tool now available for certain student aid applicants

The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Education have a graduation gift for some students. The tax agency's income data retrieval tool that makes it easier to apply for federal financial college aid is once again operational for some applicants.

Balloon graduate_IMG_4138
This cool balloon was part of my neighbors' celebration of their son's graduation. Some Texas gusts, however, helped it take a post-graduation trip to our driveway. After snapping this photo (and Instagram video), I helped the light-headed fellow home.

Since 2012, the IRS has made getting income information easier for students and their parents who are seeking financial help by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Thanks to the IRS' online Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), folks filing FAFSA can get the necessary family earnings data and have it automatically entered on the application.

Or they could, that is, until March.

That month, the IRS turned off its DRT after indications that it had been hacked. Ultimately, the IRS revealed, around 100,000 taxpayer accounts were possibly exposed to identity thieves.

Now, however, DRT is back up and running for certain financial aid applicants.

Back online for some: The Education Department has announced that folks applying for income-driven repayment plans now can use the IRS' online data retrieval tool to obtain their tax data needed for that assistance.

The affected financial aid is shown on StudentLoans.gov where borrowers apply to repay their eligible William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program and/or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans under one of the four income-driven repayment plans:

  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE),
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE),
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR).

The reactivated DRT has security updates to encrypt and mask taxpayer data in these cases, according to the Department of Education. That means that transferred tax return information will be hidden from view on the DRT web page and the online income-driven repayment plan application.

As an added protection, the IRS automatically will notify taxpayers by mail when their tax return information is accessed using the DRT.

Folks completing the general FAFSA, however, are still locked out of the system until this fall. The IRS and Education Department have set Oct. 1 as the expected date when the DRT again will be fully accessible for 2018-2019 applications.

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