Ah, FAFSA.  You are the cause of so many headaches for college families.  But hey, it’s not so easy filling out all of that personal, family and financial information…or is it?  From our good friends at the Internal Revenue Service (yes, they can be our friends) comes a great time saver in the financial aid process.  The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) promises to find and fill in tax information right onto your FAFSA form!

Here’s how it works…

When you’re filling out your FAFSA online, complete everything you can as accurately as possible.  When you arrive at the financial sections of the application, you will be given the option to use the DRT.  FAFSA and the IRS first need to determine if you are eligible to do so, and therefore will redirect you to a sort of questionnaire.  On the IRS website, which you will be transferred to, answer the questions provided to you in order to authenticate your identity.  This part is designed to make sure the correct and individualized tax information is provided to you (and to ensure that you have the right to said information).

From this point on it is smooth sailing.  Your personalized tax information will display for your review.  All information on the screen at this point will be the details necessary on the FAFSA form.  Look it over, and if everything seems A-OK, hit “transfer” to pop that information directly onto the FAFSA.  It is recommended that individuals not alter the information provided by the IRS, as it is the most accurate record available and changing it may put you in line to have your FAFSA verified later (meaning the individual’s full tax return is subject to review by their school’s aid office, delaying processing of the financial aid application).  After you’ve finished using the DRT, head back to your regular application and finish up.  It sure beats digging through information, right?

The fine print…You knew it was coming.  Yes, there are rules and exceptions to everything.  While there is the matter of that short questionnaire, the IRS and FAFSA have a few other eligibility requirements for use of the DRT.

  • It seems like a no-brainer, but yes, you must have filed your 2011 taxes already.
  • Social Security?  Who needs it?  You do!  Users must have a Social Security number.
  • Have you been PINned?  Students using the DRT must have a Federal Student Aid PIN number (the number you use for the FAFSA), and if you don’t have one yet, you can apply!
  • Relationship status: your marital status cannot have changed since the end of 2011 (note: Fake Facebook marriages to your BFF are OK…We won’t tell…).

Exceptions…You may not use the tool if:

  • You already submitted an amended 2011 return
  • You haven’t filed your 2011 taxes
  • You filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return


Did you already complete the FAFSA?  Concerned about the accuracy of the information provided?  No problem!  Go ahead and log back into your federal aid account, because you can use the DRT to update FAFSA info!  Use it the same way as if you were filling in the form for the very first time, and the new information will replace the old!

Boy, technology is a great thing.  This new IRS Tool sure beats the old days of carving the information onto a stone slab with a hammer and chisel (Ha!).  Today’s students really do have some awesome resources to help them along on their way to an excellent education.  Speaking of resources, go on over to the solutions center to get more helpful advice from your friends at Go Financial Aid.

Categories: Financial Aid | Financial Aid Applications | FAFSA
Tags: fafsa financial aid irs drt tool

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