Please note that personal copies of federal tax returns can no longer be accepted by the Office of Financial Aid to satisfy verification requirements.
IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA
The FAFSA now includes an IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) that allows students and parents (after their federal tax returns have been processed by the IRS) to populate their tax return information on the FAFSA. This tool makes completing the FAFSA easier, and it will help prevent processing delays by verifying the tax information that is submitted on your FAFSA.
Who can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
To use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the 2020-2021 FAFSA, students and/or parents must:
- Have a 2018 federal tax return filed with the IRS
- Have a valid Social Security Number
- Have a FSA ID
Some students and parents will not be able to use the Data Retrieval Tool. Some of the reasons that make a tax filer unable to use the tool are:
- Tax filing status is married filing separately
- An amended tax return is filed
- A Puerto Rican or foreign tax return is filed
- Marital status changes after December 31, 2018
- A federal tax return has been recently filed and has not yet been processed by the IRS
When can the IRS Data Retrieval Tool be used?
Approximately two weeks after you/your parents electronically file your federal tax return(s) with the IRS, you can go to FAFSA on the Web and use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool by following the instructions and clicking 'LINK TO IRS'. According to the IRS, if you file your tax return by mail, it will take approximately six to eight weeks for the data to be available to be retrieved on your FAFSA.
Use the DRT when you initially file the FAFSA, or go back to FAFSA on the Web to update/correct your information.
What happens if you cannot or do not choose to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?
If you (or your parents) cannot (or choose not to) use this option, you will need to fill in your IRS tax information manually on the FAFSA. Later on in the application process, you may be required to request a Tax Return Transcript for you and/or your parents directly from the IRS and then submit the documents to USC Aiken's Office of Financial Aid. There are three ways to request your Tax Return Transcript from the IRS: by phone, online, or by mail. Due to federal regulations, personal copies of tax returns can no longer be accepted for verification purposes (Federal Register 75 FR 66832).
Learn more about requesting a Federal Tax Return Transcript from the IRS
How does the IRS Data Retrieval process work?
When a parent or student selects the IRS Data Retrieval option, the FAFSA Central Processing System (CPS) conducts a data match with the IRS. As the federal income tax filer, you will be redirected to a secure IRS website where you will permit the IRS to transfer income data to the CPS. Data that is successfully matched will be marked on the FAFSA with the following notation, "Transferred from the IRS."
As long as income data fields are not subsequently changed on the FAFSA, a student whose FAFSA is selected for verification (or parent) who successfully uses the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will not be required to submit a Tax Return Transcript from the IRS. The Data Retrieval process helps prevent reporting errors and processing delays that can otherwise occur when the option is not selected. Please note that you may still be required to supply other information as part of the verification process.
Other Important Information
If you listed your tax filing status on the FAFSA as "Will File" because you had not yet filed a federal tax return, please remember to return to FAFSA on the Web after you have actually submitted a federal tax return to the IRS. Change this status to "Already Filed", update all relevant income fields on your FAFSA, and select the IRS Data Retrieval option.