One enhancement of the new FAFSA that we’ve heard a lot about is the ability to electronically import your latest tax return data directly from the IRS website into your online FAFSA, replacing tax questions you would have had to fill in by hand. The electronic retrieval of IRS information is scheduled to begin in January 2010, but Stuart, an EducationGrant reader, pointed out that I was incorrect in some important details, and he was right. A little more research led me to information from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators about how this new technology is going to work. For starters, it’s going to be rolled out in stages (which seems like a sensible plan).
At first, the new IRS information retrieval feature will only work for importing 2008 tax return data into a 2009-2010 online FAFSA, and the retrieval technology itself will not be available until late January 2010, rather than January 1st.
Once the IRS info retrieval function is fully tested and proves to work successfully, then importing 2009 tax return data into a 2010-2011 FAFSA may begin sometime in the summer of 2010.
The NASFAA stated that the IRS Data Retrieval process will be available to dependent and independent student who are 2009-2010 FAFSA-on-the-Web applicants, and the parents of dependent applicants, who meet all of these criteria:
- You must be filing an initial or renewal 2009-2010 FAFSA (IRS Data Retrieval will not be available for corrections entry for 2009-2010)
- You must have a PIN, which is required to access tax information on the IRS database, as well as to sign and submit the FAFSA online. (Any student or parent who does not have a PIN will get the opportunity to apply for a PIN and use it immediately to both transfer IRS data and submit the FAFSA, but to prevent glitches, it’s faster to get your PIN ahead of time.)
- You must have a valid Social Security Number (SSN)
- You must have filed a 2008 federal tax return
- Your marital status has not changed since December 31, 2008
Other changes to the FAFSA, such as a streamlined form, the ability to skip questions that don’t apply to you, and instant estimates of Pell Grant eligibility, should be available even in the 2009-2010 FAFSA in January.
Here’s a quick look at the current (2009-2010) and new (2010-2011) online FAFSA forms, from the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Annual Report (FY 2009):
Stay tuned to EducationGrant for more updates on the new FAFSA over the next several months, and in the meantime, thanks to Stuart for the IRS retrieval clarification.