IRS Data Retrieval is a new system of verifying a financial aid applicant’s income information.  In the “old days,” families often had to mail paper copies of their federal tax returns to every single college to which they were applying. This created a paper backlog and a security nightmare.  Now families can easily verify that the numbers on their FAFSA form match the numbers on their tax return. And for those families that completed the FAFSA form early, with estimates, there’s a new, simple way to update the information.

IRS Data Retrieval for the 2016/2017 FASFA form becomes available on February 7, 2016, however an applicant’s tax data will not be available for retrieval until two weeks after their 2015 federal tax returns have been filed electronically; eight weeks if filed on paper.

To initiate the retrieval process, log in to your submitted FAFSA as a returning user and select Make a Correction.  Jump to the financial information section of the form and change your tax filing status from Will File to Already Completed – this will trigger the system to ask you if you would like to do IRS Data Retrieval, click YES and follow the instructions, keeping in mind your name, address, SSN, and all other identifying information on the FAFSA has to match correctly with the information on the tax forms. Remember, you will need to do the process for both the student and the parent if you have both filed taxes.  If you are completing the FAFSA AFTER your taxes have been submitted, you will be asked to do IRS Data Retrieval when you check off that you have completed your taxes for 2015.

Once the retrieval is complete, simply Sign and Submit to resend the now accurate FAFSA data to all the schools on your list.  Do not manually change any of the data.  When the college receives your new FAFSA data, they will know that it is coming directly from the IRS.

A few families do not qualify for IRS DRT if they are victims of identity theft, are married filing separately, or are amended tax filers.  But these families can request an IRS transcript and submit that for verification of their income.   If you are denied IRS Data Retrieval, the FAFSA form will provide you with instructions for requesting an IRS transcript.

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Written by Laurie Peltier
Laurie Peltier is a college finance expert at College Coach. Before joining College Coach, she was a Senior Financial Aid Officer at Becker College and Anna Maria College. Visit our website to learn more about Laurie Peltier.