Good news to the families out there who are trying to score a federal college financial aid for the coming school year. According to reliable sources, it will now be easier to supply the extra information that the government sometimes asks from applicants.
At of this writing, the online data-transfer program set up by the IRS was taken offline temporarily, which prompted the Federal Student Aid office to come up with another solution; They will now be accepting signed copies of 2015 tax returns instead.
In the past, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool made it possible for users to just send their tax-return information via electronic transfer to federal student-aid forms. According to Vice-President of enrollment for Otterbein University Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, this was a great tool that allowed data transfer with minimal risk of incurring a typo.
However, the IRS took the said tool offline just this March due to security loopholes. Following this incident, families who were required to verify their income were instructed to supply an IRS document, a tax transcript. Many of those who were affected were concerned because the form in question was not familiar. They were even more concerned after finding out that this requires a separate application and that it could take weeks to obtain. Blackburn-Smith noted that this meant a lot of work for families who are just doing the FAFSA now.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators conducted a survey where they asked the public on their thoughts on how the Data Retrieval Tool going offline has affected them. Their results showed that income verification was one of the biggest hurdles. The federal government often instructs institutions to verify information in select cases, such as when a family’s income is very low, which could be enough consideration for them not to pay anything toward the cost of the college.
The feds gave in to the concerns of those who were affected, where the government responded with the news of a ‘Dear colleague’ letter sent out by the Department of Education specifying that universities and colleges can accept signed paper tax returns.
For the students who have already filed the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year, they already know what to expect, but those who are transferring and returning are not yet fully aware what they are getting or not getting.