As always, we encourage students to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and exhaust all federal financial aid options like grants, work-study, and federal student loans BEFORE considering borrowing any private education loans. Whether you’ll be starting or continuing college in the fall, you need to complete the FAFSA for the 2017-18 year. Before starting your FAFSA, you should know that a very convenient feature of the application, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT – the tool you use to pull your tax information into the application directly from the IRS), is currently unavailable. But don’t worry! This post will walk you through how to complete your FAFSA without it.
What is the IRS DRT?
The IRS DRT was introduced in 2011 as a way of making the FAFSA easier to file. It allows most parents and students the option to import their tax data from the IRS directly onto the FAFSA. The IRS DRT saves time and increases accuracy. In March, the Department of Education announced that the IRS had taken the DRT offline in order to make security improvements, and that they expect the tool to be unavailable until the start of the next FAFSA filing season (October 1, 2017).
How do I complete the FAFSA without the IRS DRT?
While the IRS DRT is convenient, it’s still completely possible to finish your FAFSA without it. It is more important than ever to be careful while typing. Double check that the information on each page is correct before moving on to the next page or submitting your application. It will also be helpful to have your personal and financial information ready and organized before you begin your application. Here is a list of the information you should gather for the 2017-2018 FAFSA…
The student will need (if applicable):
- Driver’s license
The student, student’s spouse (if married and filing taxes jointly), and student’s parents (if the student is considered dependent on the FAFSA) will need (if applicable):
- Social security card, alien registration, or permanent resident card
- Tax return from 2015 (such as 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ). If you don’t have this, you can request a copy of your tax return transcript from the IRS for free. It usually takes 5-10 business to receive the transcript.
- W-2 form from 2015 and other records of taxed or untaxed income
- Current bank statements
- Current investment records (such as businesses & farms, stocks, bonds, etc.)
Does manually entering my information increase my chances of being selected for verification?
“Verification” happens when a college or university needs to double-check or verify the information on a student’s FAFSA. It’s important to remember that getting selected for verification doesn’t mean that you’re in trouble. Some schools verify FAFSA information for all students, some schools randomly select students for verification, and some schools verify student information only when they feel it is necessary.
If you are selected for verification, you should follow up with the financial aid office at your college or university to see what actions you to take. Additionally, even if you aren’t selected for verification, you’ll want to talk to your college’s financial aid office if your financial situation has changed since 2015. Examples of major life events that could change your financial situation include unemployment, death of a spouse or parent, or major medical costs.
What if I still need help?
We understand that this can be a confusing and intimidating process, but completing the FAFSA is required if you want to be considered for federal student aid like grants, work study, or federal student loans. If you get stuck or have questions, here are some resources you can turn to:
- Find the “Help and Hints” box on the right side of your FAFSA. It changes every time you select a new field, so it has very specific answers to frequently asked questions.
- Ask Federal Student Aid experts for help by chatting online or calling 1-800-433-3243