Well, it was great while it lasted. Perhaps you’ve heard—or experienced—the IRS Data Retrieval outage while trying to get your FAFSA done for 2017-18. What once allowed for a sleek ‘n accurate transferral of tax figures from the IRS database into your FAFSA has been out of commission since March 3. At first, we all just assumed it was site maintenance, but it turns out it was taken down due to concerns over identity theft. What does that mean to you? Let’s explore below…irs_data_retrieval

First off, if you cleverly took advantage of the new earlier FAFSA open date (October 1) and completed the FAFSA using IRS Data Retrieval, you’re good to go. Really, if you’ve already received a financial aid package that doesn’t suggest any of the offered aid is tentative, estimated, or pending, you can go find something more interesting to do on the internet. Lucky (smart!) you. J

For those of you whose situation is not described above, you probably fall into one of two camps:

  • Camp One: You still need to file your FAFSA.
  • Camp Two: You filed the FAFSA, but your college requested IRS transcripts of you/r parents’ 2015 taxes OR to provide verification of non-tax filing.

What to do if you still need to file your FAFSA

If you are in Camp 1, know that you can still file and (hopefully) meet any necessary priority filing deadlines without using data retrieval. My best advice is to hunker down with you/r parents’ 2015 taxes as well as a copy of your 2016-17 FAFSA SAR (Student Aid Report), which you can use as something of a cheat sheet (both of these FAFSAs will use the same 2015 taxes, meaning the tax sections of your FAFSAs should be identical) and can be downloaded at your FAFSA home screen once you’ve logged in using your FSA ID.

Next, to get ahead of a potential verification, I’d head off to the IRS site and request a transcript of these same taxes (for anyone who filed: you and/or parent[s]), either via online, which requires creating an account and some kind of consumer debt to prove your identity (credit card is easiest, if you have one), or paper form, called the 4506-T, which can then be either faxed or mailed to the IRS. Our experience has suggested mailing the form to be most effective as the fax number for the IRS offices processing these requests is apparently out of service :\. Yikes. Here’s how to fill out this form.tax_transcript

What to do if you have been selected for verification

Now for those in Camp 2. If you and your parent(s) both filed taxes, you each only need to request the tax transcripts (one for student, one for parent[s]) described in the paragraph immediately above. Easy peasy. If one or both of you or your parent(s) did not file taxes in 2015, you’ll fill out the same 4506-T but do so a little differently. Here’s a cheat sheet for people who did not file taxes.verification_non-filer

With that, I implore you to contact us if you’re needing help this year as clearly we’ve had some unexpected changes with financial aid this year. What hasn’t changed is the importance of getting the FAFSA done to ensure you can get that assistance in covering college costs! Good luck and happy form filling-out-ing!