By Jacob Newman – StepUp Outreach Officer and Paying For College Expert – 10.20.17
The temperature is dropping, school is in full swing, Halloween is just around the corner, and FAFSA season is here! StepUp has hosted many completion open houses for the 2018-2019 Free Application for Federal Student Aid throughout the state. Students and parents have come to get expert help from StepUp’s paying for college experts to file their FAFSA in 30 minutes or less.
One spooky concern that some students have parents have expressed is about the Internal Revenue Service Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT—the tool you use to pull your tax information into the FAFSA). The IRS DRT has changed from years past, so we have seven tips to remember about the IRS DRT to make sure that doing your FAFSA can be a breeze!
1. Create an FSA ID to use the IRS DRT
In order for parents and students to use the IRS DRT, students and parents will need to create Federal Student Aid IDs. (If your parent can’t make an FSA ID, that’s okay!) The FSA ID will allow you to use the IRS DRT, so make sure you enter your personal information correctly. Be especially careful when entering your social security number. Make sure it matches your social security card.
2. Use the IRS DRT
This seems like a silly tip, but both parents and students often try to skip using the IRS DRT for a few reasons. And if they do, they often end up looking like this:
If you can use the IRS DRT, use it! It transfers a lot of the financial information that you need into the FAFSA and will make filling out your FAFSA easier.
3. Check the personal information on the IRS page!
The IRS DRT will not work if you do not put in the right information in the required fields. Check your name, social security number, and address to make sure they match exactly as they appear on your 2016 taxes. Some common mistakes include spelling out “south” rather than abbreviating it as “S” or writing out “road” rather than abbreviating it as “RD”
4. Don’t be scared when it says “Transferred from the IRS”
This year, unlike previous years, students and parents will not be able to see their financial information (such as their adjusted gross income) on their FAFSA. Don’t worry about this! This protects you from other people trying to steal your information.
5. Use your parents’ W-2s
If both parents in your house work, the FAFSA will ask you for how much each parent earned from work in the past year. You can use your parents’ W-2s to determine how much each parent made from work. Since you won’t be able to see your parents’ income information when it is transferred from the IRS, the W-2s will help you. If only one parent in the house works, you can also use their tax return to get this information.
6. Remember to include information not transferred from the IRS
The IRS DRT transfers a lot of your information into your FAFSA but there are some things that it will not transfer. Under the section 2016 additional financial information, read each line item carefully to make sure you include the requested information. Some examples might be child support paid, taxable earning from work-study, combat pay, or cooperative education program earnings.
7. Don’t fret if you can’t use the IRS DRT
If you cannot get the IRS DRT to work or you cannot use it for your FAFSA, don’t worry! Each required box on the FAFSA has a help and hint on the side that will let you know what information to put in and where to find it on your taxes.
The FAFSA can be daunting, but by following these tips about your taxes, you can get through your FAFSA without much trouble. And who knows? If you file your FAFSA, you might be surprised how much of a treat you’re eligible for!