IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Filing the FAFSA, 2015-2016 Edition (Cover)
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The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) allows taxpayers to transfer information from their federal income tax returns to answer corresponding questions on FAFSA on the Web (FOTW). Millions of students and parents use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool each year.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool may be used to complete the initial FAFSA or to update the information on the FAFSA after the student and/or parent's federal income tax returns have been filed. Since many states and colleges have early financial aid deadlines, many families will submit the FAFSA with estimated income and tax information and later use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update the information after their federal income tax returns have been filed.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool typically becomes available the first Sunday in February and may be used 3 weeks after filing the federal income tax return electronically and 6-8 weeks after filing a paper federal income tax return. If a balance is owed on the federal income tax return, there may be a delay in the availability of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Who Can Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

Eligible to Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

  • Must have a valid Social Security number
  • Must have a FAFSA PIN
  • Cannot file as married filing separately
  • Cannot have a change in marital status after the end of the tax year
  • Cannot file an amended federal income tax return
  • Cannot list a different home address on the FAFSA and federal income tax return
  • Cannot file a foreign income tax return instead of or in addition to the U.S. federal income tax return

Students and parents must use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool separately for their respective federal income tax returns.

To use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, the taxpayer must have a valid Social Security number and FAFSA PIN. Taxpayers who file a federal income tax return with a Tax ID Number (TIN) or 000-00-0000 instead of a Social Security number may not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Taxpayers who are married but file separate federal income tax returns (e.g., married filing separately or head of household) may not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Likewise, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will not be an option if the student's parents are unmarried but living together or if the student's parents have an informal separation but continue to file a joint federal income tax return (e.g., married filing jointly). Taxpayers who have experienced a change in marital status after the end of the tax year may not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Taxpayers who have filed an amended federal income tax return may not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, since the tool can transfer data only from the original federal income tax return.

Taxpayers who have filed foreign income tax returns instead of or in addition to a U.S. federal income tax return may not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This includes taxpayers from the Freely Associated States (the Republic of Palau (PW), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (MH), or the Federated States of Micronesia (FM)), whose Social Security numbers begin with 666, as well as taxpayers who file a Puerto Rican tax return.

Taxpayers who list a different home address on their federal income tax returns than the home address listed on the FAFSA may not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. The two addresses must match for the IRS to confirm the taxpayer's identity.

Taxpayers who are victims of identity theft involving their federal income tax returns may not be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool until the situation is resolved.

Benefits of Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool may reduce the likelihood of the student's FAFSA being selected for verification. This will save the student and family time and hassle. Any data element that is copied from a federal income tax return as filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) without modification will not be subject to verification. Some colleges and universities require their students to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool because it reduces the number of FAFSAs that must be verified by the school.

If a taxpayer does not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool and the student's FAFSA is selected for verification, the taxpayer will be required to complete IRS Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. Since it can take up to 30 days to process this form, it is best to request the tax transcript online or by calling 1-800-908-9946. It is no longer acceptable to provide the school with a photocopy of the income tax return, as some families were supplying colleges with a fake copy of their federal income tax returns. The U.S. Department of Education now requires that the tax transcript come directly from the IRS to prevent this type of fraud.

Reminder: Submit Changes after Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

If the applicant uses the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update the student, spouse or parent information on the FAFSA, the applicant must submit the changes after using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Otherwise, the new data will not be transmitted to the college financial aid office. Submitting the changes is a final step that students and parents sometimes overlook.

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