The Easy Way to Transfer Your Tax Information into Your FAFSA

IRS Data Retrieval Tool infographic

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I’ll admit it. February is not my favorite month because it reminds me of tax returns, bad weather and well, finding my tax information. Ugh. 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. So, here is why you should use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to instantly transfer your tax information directly into your FAFSA:

1. What is the IRS DRT and how do I use it?

You can find the IRS DRT in the “Financial Information” section of the FAFSA. To use the tool, be sure to indicate that you already completed your tax return.  Answer the remaining questions and log in using your FSA ID:

2016-17 - Taxes Completed

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If your tax return information is available and if you are eligible to use it, you will be transferred to the tool.  Make sure to provide your information exactly as you provided it on your tax return:

IRS DRT Screenshot with 2015 tax info

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You will be able to preview your tax information before agreeing to have it directly transferred to your FAFSA.

IRS DRT Screenshot with 2015 tax info

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When you return to the FAFSA, you’ll see the relevant questions populated with your information automatically. It’s that easy!

2. Why use this tool?

  • It’s so easy that it only takes a couple of clicks 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.

3. 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 you e-file your taxes, your information will be available to transfer 2-3 weeks after you file.

4. 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 Navigate to the “Financial Information” 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 same prompts listed above to transfer your tax return information to your application.

5. 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 Dec. 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 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.


  1. I have been trying for 2 hours to get the FAFSA DRT to accept my address as it appears on my 2015 tax return. My return was filled in early February and I received my refund the third week of February. I know my IRS information for 2016 is processed. No matter how I enter my address, the IRS DRT says I have entered my address incorrectly. I even called my tax accountant and she tried to help me. It is a simple street address and PO Box that I have had for 20 years. I do not want to enter the information in manually and then have to submit all the paperwork to the university. Can anyone help me with this? Thanks for any information!

    • I am having the same exact problem with my taxes. It is very frustrating as I am entering the exact address but it says that it is wrong.

  2. I used the IRS DRT to transfer my tax information on my daughter’s FASFA application. We had a significant loss from our farm. My husband and I both work full time jobs and that income is all that transferred over, not the farm loss. How do I show that our income is not actually what we made at our jobs because of the farm loss? We have already submitted the FASFA application and it is being processed.

    • Most information cannot be updated because it must be accurate as of the day you originally signed your FAFSA. For example, if you spent some of your savings after filing the FAFSA, you may not update your information to show a change in that amount. You should speak to the financial aid office at the school if there will be a significant change in your income for the present year or if your family has other circumstances that cannot be reported on the FAFSA.

  3. The FAFSA application for the 2017/18 school year has been moved to Oct of the previous year (2016) so the income numbers will be based on 2015 tax returns. My question is will there be an opportunity to update our FAFSA once our 2016 tax returns are done? Our income will be reduced so we would want our FAFSA to reflect that. Thank you for your advice.

    • Great question, a few people have asked us that. Unfortunately, you will not be able to update your 2017-18 FAFSA tax info to reflect 2016 numbers. The new process is that we’ll only be asking for 2015 tax info and you won’t have to go back to update.

    • Are you on the parent or student section? Have you tried another browser? If you’re still having issues, give us a call (1-800-4FED-AID) or send us a screenshot (hide any personal info) to our Facebook or Twitter pages.

    • If your parents filed (or will file) a foreign tax return, they should use the information from the foreign tax return to complete your FAFSA. Convert all monetary units to U.S. dollars using the published exchange rate in effect for the date nearest to the date you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). View the daily exchange rates.

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