FAFSA Update: Data Imported From DRT Will Be Masked

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The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be available to FAFSA filers this fall, but the tax information it imports will remain masked — even to students and parents.

According to a recent Federal Student Aid memo, the change will enhance security and privacy. But many financial aid professionals are worried the tool’s new constraints will discourage families and students from using it to import their tax information when applying for federal aid.

This fall, “instead of seeing their actual numbers from their tax returns, (FAFSA filers who use the DRT will) see ‘transferred from the IRS’ in each data field,” Ed Week reporter Catherine Gerwertz noted in an article published earlier this month.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFFA) has called on federal officials to find another way to protect tax payers’ personal information.

The DRT, which was suspended last spring due to security concerns, had long been viewed as a positive addition to the FAFSA. By importing tax information directly from the IRS, families are more likely to avoid data entry errors.

Megan McClean Coval, NASFFA’s vice president for public policy and federal relations, said her organization is concerned that fewer people will use the DRT to fill out the FAFSA this year simply because “they’re uncomfortable with not seeing their (tax) data on the application.”

“We’d like them to strengthen security without creating more barriers,” she told Ed Week.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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