Access to IRS Data Tool Partially Restored

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday announced the partial restoration of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows students and families to automatically import tax information already on file with the government into the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The website serves as a key tool for many students applying for federal financial aid as well as borrowers applying to enroll in more affordable repayment plans.

The online tool went offline in March following concerns that student borrower information could potentially be misused by identity thieves. The IRS estimated that the information for 100,000 taxpayers could have been compromised through the tool.

As of Friday, student loan borrowers applying for income-driven repayment programs—or to recertify their income levels—can once again automatically transfer their tax return data into applications through the website. However, the tool remains unavailable for students applying for federal student aid.

The department expects that access for student aid applicants will be restored by October 1, in time for the next federal aid cycle. Agency officials said security enhancements have been made to partially restore the program, including additional encryption as well as notifying taxpayers via mail when their tax return information is accessed through the tool.

The tool's initial outage triggered concerns from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) asked the department for briefings and additional information on the tool.

"I have been urging Secretary DeVos to take swift action to fix this issue and find relief for students and families — so I am pleased that the Department has taken this step to help struggling student loan borrowers," Murray said in a statement Friday. "While this is a good start, more must be done and I will continue to hold the Department of Education to their word that all students will have full access to the financial aid tool by October 1st."

 

Related Links

U.S. Education Department Press Release

https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/data-retrieval-tool-available-income-driven-repayment-plan-application

Inside Higher Ed

https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2017/06/05/access-data-tool-restored-borrowers