CollegiateParent continues to monitor the FAFSA/IRS security breach story. It appears now that the information of 100,000 taxpayers who used the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to complete the FAFSA may have been hacked, with the information being used to file fraudulent tax returns in order to steal refunds. The IRS is contacting individuals at risk.
The New York Times and other news outlets covered the April 6, 2017 testimony of the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, before the Senate Finance Committee. Read more here.
The Internal Revenue Service announced on March 9 that the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows students and their parents to upload federal tax return information from the IRS directly into the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid), is not working.
The FAFSA must be completed by all first-time and renewing applicants for college financial aid. The same data retrieval tool is used by students applying for an income-driven student loan repayment plan at StudentLoans.gov.
Initially it was expected that the tool would remain unavailable for only a few weeks but recently the IRS announced that it will take longer to add necessary security protections. According to Inside Higher Education, the tool may be unavailable until the start of the next FAFSA application season on October 1st.
In the meantime, students and families can complete the FAFSA at fafsa.gov by manually entering their 2015 tax information from completed returns. (Remember that the FAFSA is now collecting “prior prior” tax year information, which for this filing season means 2015.) To learn more, including how to proceed if you did not save copies of your 2015 tax returns, read the complete IRS news release here.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators has asked the Department of Education to take steps to alleviate the burden falling on student aid applicants and their families. Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal was one of the first to report that the data retrieval tool was taken down because of “criminal activity.”
- If you have questions or concerns about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool problem and the data breach, and how it may affect your college student’s financial aid, or if your student is having difficulty applying for financial aid renewal, you should contact the financial aid office at your student’s college or university directly.
- If you are the parent of a current high school senior and your student is having trouble completing financial aid applications, or has questions about awards from schools, communicate directly with the schools to which your student is applying.
- Current college students who still need to complete the FAFSA to determine eligibility for financial aid for the 2017-2018 academic year should do so immediately and gather their 2015 income tax information beforehand.
- The Data Retrieval Tool issue may cause more instances of the new Code 399 flag (which will occur if there are discrepancies between the tax information supplied in last year’s application and this year’s since they use the same tax year). Learn more about Code 399 (what it is and what to do if your application is flagged) here.
Learn more about the FAFSA and how and why to apply for financial aid during college in “A Financial Aid Update for College Parents.”