Charles Dickens was right: It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
Let’s start with the down side: FAFSA AND THE IRS. The data retrieval tool that was supposed to allow you to easily access tax information and get the many, very specific questions on the FAFSA out of the way . . . is down. The first explanation offered was simply that the system was down for maintenance. Turns out that was not quite the problem.
Then, last Thursday, the IRS and Department of Education released this statement:
“the IRS decided to temporarily suspend the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) as a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.”
But they still did not clearly explain that the tool would be down for weeks. This, imho, is definitely negligent and in terms of the stress and suffering, at least somewhat criminal. But it will be up to the states as well as the Feds to correct this–states like Texas should immediately extend their deadlines to allow students who, until this week, were planning on using the DRT to get their FAFSA forms done. And as usual, it is the kids who really need it that are likely to be hurt the most.
Your takeaway, if you are dealing with the FAFSA:change your weekend plans and start the laborious process of matching last year’s tax return to the questions on the FAFSA and doing some serious data entry. For me . . . .Not that I had anything to do with it, but I really am embarrassed that the institutions we citizens need are letting us down. Of course, the deeper problem is not so much with the institutions themselves as it is with this uncomfortable new virtual world we have created and its black-hat hackers and swindlers, who seem to be the problem, if the latest information is true . . . and the resources needed to deal with security will continue to be a problem in the perennially under-resourced world of education. On the bright side, we assume that they have not had a Yahoo moment and lost a giant batch of data to hackers . . . right, IRS? This was simply preventative . . . we hope.
AS YOU START–REMEMBER–use the previous year return, for 2015.
Here is what is up on the Department of Education site as of this time (March 17):
- The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is unavailable at this time. We regret any inconvenience.
To fill out a FAFSA, you can manually input your tax information. Remember, if you’re filling out the 2017–18 FAFSA form, your 2015 tax information is required (not 2016).
- FSA ID Reminder: Login to the FAFSA with your FSA ID only if you are the student. Parents: Refer to Help, Trending Questions if you’re helping your child fill out the FAFSA.
Here is another good piece of information:
“Those who need copies of their tax returns can request them online by visiting irs.gov/transcript or call 800-908-9946 and a transcript will be delivered to the address of record within five to 10 days.”
Here are more resources and information:
But About the Best of Times–Click for the rest of the story:
Acceptance Letter Season has officially arrived as the U.C. system sends out e-mails.
More about that soon . . .