FSA and the IRS announced today that the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) on fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov will remain unavailable until “extra security precautions” can be added. The IRS DRT has been unavailable since early March, when it was disabled due to security concerns. The announcement indicates that both FSA and the IRS are working to resolve the security issues, but that students and their families should “plan for the tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season.”
As a reminder, though the IRS DRT is unavailable, online FAFSA applications are still operable. Students can gather the income information necessary for the FAFSA and income-driven repayment plans on previously filed tax returns. If previously filed returns are not available, tax transcripts can be attained online or by calling 1.800.908.9946.
For more information on the status of the IRS DRT, including steps the IRS is taking to protect taxpayers, please see the original announcement.
On Friday, FSA and the IRS released a statement about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. The statement notes that the tool – found through FAFSA.gov – is currently unavailable and is expected to remain unavailable for “several weeks.” The statement notes that the tool has been taken down “as a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.”
The statement stresses that this lack of availability does not affect students’ ability to apply for financial aid. The IRS recently shared details on getting IRS information for FAFSA usage in lieu of using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. A portion of their instructions are included below:
Getting Your 2015 Tax Return Information For the 2016–17 and 2017–18 FAFSA
Applicants filing a 2016–17 or 2017–18 FAFSA must use data from their 2015 tax returns.
You should always retain a copy of your tax return, either electronically or on paper, and keep it in a secure place.
If you did not keep a copy of your tax return, here are some options:
- Access the tax software product you used to prepare and file your 2015 return. You may be able to access your account to download/print a copy.
- Contact the tax preparer/provider who filed your 2015 return if you used a tax professional.
- Download your tax transcript (a summary) at Get Transcript Online. Review the rigorous identity authentication requirements for Secure Access before attempting to register.
- Use Get Transcript by Mail and a transcript will be mailed to the address on your return within five to 10 days.
- Call our automated line at 800-908-9946 to order a transcript by mail.
If you filed an amended tax return, Form 1040X, you should use the adjusted gross income and earned income listed on your revised tax return.
As announced on NASFAA’s Twitter account on March 7, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is currently down due to technical issues.
This morning, the IRS and FSA released the following statement about the outage:
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) Statement about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)
The IRS DRT on fafsa.gov is currently unavailable, and we continue to work on the issue. Applicants filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can manually enter the requested financial information from copies of their tax returns.
The online FAFSA remains operational, and families can continue filling the FAFSA as you normally would, using your 2015 tax information.
The income information needed to complete the FAFSA can be found on your tax return. If you did not retain a copy of your tax return, you may be able to access the tax software you used to prepare your return or contact your tax preparer to obtain a copy.
If you are unable to get a copy of your tax return, you may visit www.irs.gov/transcript to view and download a summary of your tax return, called a tax transcript, at Get Transcript Online. You must verify your identity to use this tool. You also may use Get Transcript by Mail or call 1-800-908-9946, and a transcript will be delivered to your address of record within five to 10 days.
For more information on or for help with completing the FAFSA, visit StudentAid.gov/fafsa or call 1-800-4FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).
We will continue monitoring updates and provide more information on the outage as it is available.
FSA recently announced that the Department of Education distributed the FY 2014 3-Year Draft cohort default rate (CDR) notification packages to all eligible domestic and foreign schools on February 27, 2017.
FSA’s announcement details how Draft CDRs were sent to the SAIG mailbox for the destination point administrator designated by the school Each eCDR package included the following information:
- Cover Letter (message class SHDRLROP)
- Reader-Friendly Loan Record Detail Report (message class SHCDRROP)
- Extract-Type Loan Record Detail Report (message class SHCDREOP)
FSA did not send eCDR notification packages to schools who are not enrolled in eCDR. Such schools can download their CRDs and accompanying Loan Record Detail Reports from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)
FSA’s announcement also notes that the period for appealing the FY 2014 3-Year Draft Cohort Default Rates under 34 C.F.R Part 668, Subpart N began on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 for all schools.
For full details, read FSA’s original announcement.
Federal Training Officer David Bartnicki recently shared these updates:
Title IV information:
Usually I am able to provide some insight into various Title IV topics but due to our current period of transition I am limited in my discussions. Consistent with prior Administration transitions, it takes a little time to bring new leadership up to speed on the issues of the Department. The new Administration has now begun their review of issues. As soon as the briefing sessions are complete with the new Administration, we expect to have a full complement of federal student aid topics and Federal Update sessions at upcoming conferences.
Please note that you may ask me a question on a certain topic like GE, state authorizations, borrower defense or other newer regulations that I may not be able to provide guidance on at this time. With that said I am simply going to point out some new information on IFAP. Please make sure you are staying up on the latest and greatest EAs, DCLs, manuals, and FSA HDBK sections updated on IFAP.
As a reminder we implemented two key changes to the CPS on February 5, 2017 to modify the assignment of SAR comment code 399 to 2017-2018 records:
- For students with an automatic-zero EFC for 2017-2018, the CPS will now compare financial information provided for 2017-2018 to the student’s 2016-2017 financial information; SAR comment code 399 will only be assigned to the transaction if the EFC difference calculated by the CPS is over a certain threshold.
- We added a condition for student records with a professional judgement on the 2016-2017 transaction to be excluded from the cross-year edits that set SAR comment code 399.
Affected ISIRs were reprocessed on February 6, 2017. For more information on this reprocessing, including specific ISIR identification, please see the January 30, 2017 electronic announcement.
Pell Grant Reconciliation
We often discuss Direct Loan reconciliation but please do not forget the importance of Pell Grant reconciliation. On February 7, 2017 ED posted an electronic announcement reminding schools of the importance and necessity of reconciling their Pell funds. The EA reviews common definitions, deadlines and basic processes. For more information, please see the February 7, 2017 electronic announcement.
FY 2014 3-Year Draft Cohort Default Rates
On February 27, 2017, the Department of Education distributed the FY 2014 3-Year Draft cohort default rate (CDR) notification packages to all eligible domestic and foreign schools only. Please note that the time period for appealing the FY 2014 3-Year Draft Cohort Default Rates under 34 C.F.R Part 668, Subpart N begins on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 for all schools. This challenge period is extremely important and can impact your final CDRs.
For more information on the CDR distribution protocol, the challenge process and contact information, please see the February 27, 2017 electronic announcement.
The most asked question I currently receive around verification is what documentation is allowed to verify a nonfiler with the IRS. I am happy to announce that on February 23, 2017, ED posted an electronic announcement and chart that shows the methods by which an individual can request and receive verification documents from the IRS, including documents that can be used to support nonfilers. The chart provides information about the verification documents that can be requested from the IRS, the IRS document or response that will result from each request, where the response will be sent, and an estimate of the time for the IRS to respond to the request.
For more information please review the February 23, 2017 electronic announcement and chart.
In case you missed it, I wanted to bring your attention to ANN-17-01 which discusses some new training on our Federal Student Aid E-Training website, located at https://fsatraining.info/login. This letter announces the availability of a new FSA Coach course for 2016-2017. The Intermediate Training course is designed for more experienced financial aid administrators and includes a closer look at packaging awards, Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4), Direct Subsidized Loan interest benefits, monitoring Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU), resolving Unusual Enrollment History flags, and administering federal student aid in nonstandard terms.
For more information regarding the training modules and training access, please see ANN-17-01.
FAFSA deadlines are approaching across the country, which can leave many students (current or potential) biting their nails. With questions stacked on top of questions, the FAFSA can seem intimidating and many students may worry about not having all the information they need when they log in to fill out the form.
To those students, we say, “Have no fear, the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet is here.” (Financial Aid Awareness Month apparently feeds our rhyming side.)
The FAFSA on the Web Worksheet provides students with a preview of the questions that they may be asked when completing the FAFSA online. The printable form allows students to gather information at their own pace in order to have it ready to enter online at a later time.
Please feel free to share the FAFSA on the Web Worksheet with your students.
FSA recently announced that the street addresses for mailing paper Master Promissory Notes (MPNs) and Endorser Addenda will change on March 24, 2017. These address changes will affect documents sent via express and overnight delivery, and via regular postal mail.
The new address information follows:
FSA’s announcement further details the impact of these changes, noting that “Schools using the electronic version of the forms on the StudentLoans.gov website are not impacted.”
Read FSA’s original release for more details.