Important Information for FAFSA Filers

April 3rd, 2017 - 2:33pm

News Contact:
Nicole Cruz
Office of the Superintendent/President
(415) 485-9508

Important Information for FAFSA Filers

Current and future students should not delay completion due to IRS Data Retrieval Tool outage

KENTFIELD, CA—April 3, 2017—Each year millions of college students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access billions of dollars of federal, state, and institutional aid. 

As part of the FAFSA, adults and parents of dependent age students must enter federal tax information. This process was streamlined in 2013 when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) introduced the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). This system allowed for the easy transfer of tax data from the IRS to the FAFSA, significantly reducing the time needed to complete the application while reducing errors.

Citing information security concerns, the IRS deactivated this vital tool on March 3, 2017, and recently released a statement advising students and parents to expect the DRT to be inoperative until the 2018-2019 award period, which opens on October 1, 2017.

While the DRT is unavailable, Federal Student Aid and the IRS remind applicants that online applications are still available and are operable. Applicants will need to manually enter tax information from the 2015 filing year.

“We are extremely disappointed by this announcement and decision,” said Jon Horinek, dean of enrollment services at College of Marin. “The Data Retrieval Tool has made completion of the FAFSA easier and more accurate for our students. It also improves processing time and speeds disbursement of all types of aid. We urge the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Student Aid to take all necessary steps to secure and reactivate this important tool for our students as soon as possible.”

Applicants filing a 2016-2017 or 2017-2018 FAFSA must use data from their 2015 tax returns.
While a copy of the tax return should be kept in a secure place, either electronically or on paper, there are ways to retrieve tax information. 

  • Access the tax software product used to prepare and file the 2015 return and download/print a copy.
  • Contact the tax preparer/provider who filed the 2015 return if a tax professional was used.
  • Download the 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 to receive a transcript by mail at the address on the 2015 return within five to 10 days.
  • Call the IRS automated line at 800-908-9946 to order a transcript by mail.

It is important that students and parents know that they can still complete and submit the FAFSA, despite the DRT outage. Families having difficulty with their financial aid application are advised to reach out to college financial aid offices, high school guidance counselors, and other college access professionals for assistance. Though the DRT outage may add an extra layer of complexity to the financial aid application process, it should not derail parents and students from applying for funds to help them pay for college.

College of Marin staff are available to assist prospective and current students with questions. Contact the Enrollment Services Office at (415) 457-8811 ext. 8822. Office hours, locations, and more information about applying for financial aid at College of Marin is available online.