Education Department reduces workload for colleges in wake of IRS tool suspension

The Department of Education has provided colleges and universities more flexibility in obtaining tax information from students and their families, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports for the Washington Post

The data retrieval tool in the FAFSA was suspended last month after personal information for up to 100,000 taxpayers was stolen in a security breach. In response, the Department of Education suspended the tool, which previously allowed students filling out the FAFSA to directly import tax information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) into their form.

There were some concerns that suspension of the tool would make financial aid paperwork more cumbersome and time-consuming for colleges (and students) to process due to the burden of having to find or request old tax documents. 

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Those concerns have been alleviated after Lynn Mahaffie, acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education for the Department of Education, announced this week that colleges and universities may accept a signed copy of a 2015 IRS tax return. Additionally, they no longer need to collect IRS documentation from students verifying their family did not file a 2015 tax return. However, students must still sign a document that verifies this or submit federal W-2 forms as proof. 

"We will continue to look for additional ways to ease the burdens created by the IRS DRT outage until the tool can be restored with added security measures in place later this year," says Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post, 4/24).

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