January makes me think of holiday parties, tax returns, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). If you are like me, a world-class procrastinator that agonizes every year at the thought of filing a tax return and submitting a FAFSA, then you are not alone. You also know that it can be time consuming. Now imagine a time-saving process where you instantly transfer your tax information directly into your FAFSA. Actually, there’s no need to imagine; this process exists and you can learn more about it below.
- What is the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT)?
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is a tool accessible in the finance section of the FAFSA that will take you to the IRS website. After you log in by providing information exactly as you provided it on your tax return, you will be able to preview your tax information before agreeing to have it directly transferred to your FAFSA. When you return to the FAFSA, you’ll see the relevant questions populated with your information automatically; courtesy of the DRT. You’re welcome.
- Why use this tool?
- It’s so easy that it only takes a click of a couple buttons to transfer all your tax information.
- It can be used by both students and parents.
- Most importantly, it is accurate so you don’t have to worry about entering the wrong tax information on your FAFSA.
- When can I use the tool?
The IRS DRT is available the first Sunday in February. However, when your information will be available will depend on when you submitted your tax return.
- If I already completed the FAFSA using estimates, can I use the IRS DRT to update my FAFSA once I filed my taxes?
Yes, if you estimated, you will have to update your FAFSA once you have filed your taxes anyway. So why not use the IRS DRT? It’s the easiest way to update your FAFSA. To update your estimates, click “Make FAFSA Corrections” after logging in to fafsa.gov. Navigate to the “Finances” section and indicate that you have already completed your taxes. If your tax return information is available and if you are eligible to do so, you should follow the prompts that allow you to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to transfer your tax return information into your application.
- Why can’t I use the IRS DRT?
If you’re not seeing the IRS DRT, there may be a few reasons why:
- It is not available for use yet.
- You indicated that you will file or are not going to file a federal income tax return.
- Your marital status changed after December 31 of the previous calendar year.
- The student/parent filed a Form 1040X amended tax return.
- The student/parent filed a Puerto Rican or foreign tax return.
If you are not able to use the IRS DRT, don’t worry. Although you’ll be required to enter your tax information manually, we have great resources on StudentAid.gov that walk you through the process.
Now that you know the secret to transferring your tax information to the FAFSA, I hope you will enjoy the time you saved!
Zelma Barrett is a Management and Program Analyst at Federal Student Aid.