By Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy
Update (March 16, 9:30 a.m. ET): NCAN co-hosted a webinar with The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis to provide training for practitioners on how to help students complete the FAFSA without the IRS DRT. Materials:
Webinar recording (Recording correction: In the past, non-tax filers selected for verification could submit a signed statement saying they didn’t file taxes. Starting this year, non-tax filers must use the 4506-T form to request a tax transcript as evidence that they did not file their taxes.)
FAFSA IRS DRT: What Now? webinar slides
Return Transcript mock-up
Verification of Non-Filing mock-up
Update (March 14, 4:30 p.m. ET): NCAN co-signed a letter with NASFAA, NACAC and TICAS urging Education Department officials to take immediate steps to ease the application and verification burdens that will land squarely on students due to the IRS DRT outage.)
Update (March 16, 12:55 p.m. ET): On March 13, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board said in a memo to chancellors and presidents of public and independent institutions in Texas that the March 15 statewide priority aid deadline does not prevent colleges from extending priority to students who file their FAFSA later. On March 16, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education said the state's March 10 financial aid filing deadline would be extended to April 15.
Late yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education and the IRS confirmed that the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) will be down for several weeks with no known return date. They cited concerns that FAFSA filers using the tool may be subject to identify fraud. The announcements section of the FAFSA website now announces the outage.
We’d like to extend a tremendous “thank you” to the many NCAN members who reached out to their members of Congress early this week. was among several groups to reach out to Rep. Lloyd Doggett, spurring him to write a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Denver Scholarship Foundation and the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis both were successful at engaging their senators, who tweeted (here and here) and followed up on the issue. You can easily tweet or write to your own elected officials at this link.
Looking ahead, we must help students file their FAFSA without the DRT. NCAN recommends our members do the following:
- Assure their students know the FAFSA is still available online. It is important to encourage them to do the FAFSA now and not wait for the return of the DRT, which could be unavailable for the long-term.
- Communicate early and often that students will need copies of all of their tax return paperwork. They can retrieve this paperwork from a tax preparer or their tax software if they don't have a copy. Those with no access to a copy should request a tax transcript. Also consider whether your state allows tax filers to retrieve copies from state offices, such as the Office of Tax and Revenue in Washington, D.C., which allows students to obtain copies of transcripts with a letter from a parent and their ID.
- Inform students who need to retrieve a tax transcript to do their FAFSA that a transcript can take 10 days to receive in the mail. Many of our low-income families will not qualify for online tax transcript retrieval, which is outlined here.
- After their FAFSA is filed, students should request a tax transcript using a 4506-T in preparation for verification of their financial information.
NCAN anticipates increased rates of verification given the lack of availability of pre-verified financial information from the DRT. We join NASFAA in their call on the Education Department to:
- Allow signed copies of tax returns from applicants to satisfy verification documentation requirements in place of DRT information or IRS tax transcripts.
- Revise the verification selection criteria to provide a more generous tolerance to ensure that the numbers of students selected for verification remains stable and manageable by institutions so that financial aid processing can continue uninterrupted.
NCAN will continue to update members, sending emails when necessary and putting new information, if any, on the NCAN blog. Also, you can follow the play-by-play on Twitter at @collegeaccess.