How do I…work-around the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) being offline?

Every year, millions of post-secondary students access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This year, the DRT is unavailable for FAFSA filers because of cyber security concerns. The information needed to complete the FAFSA can be found on a previously filed federal income tax return.


To apply for federal student aid, an individual must complete and submit the FAFSA. He or she will automatically be considered for federal student aid. In addition, the individual’s post-secondary institution may use his or her FAFSA information to determine eligibility for nonfederal aid. The DRT provides tax data that automatically fills in information for part of the FAFSA form.

Individuals who plan to attend post-secondary schools from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 must submit the 2017-2018 FAFSA. Individuals will need tax information from 2015 to complete the 2017-2018 FAFSA.

Suspicious activity

Earlier this year, the IRS reported that cyber criminals may have tried to obtain tax information through the DRT. The agency’s security filters identified fraudulent returns using information obtained from the DRT. According to the IRS, as many as 100,000 taxpayer accounts may have been compromised through the DRT by cyber thieves. In response, the IRS took the DRT offline.


FAFSA filers can manually provide their tax return information, the IRS has instructed. Our office can help you prepare a FAFSA while the DRT is offline.

FAFSA filers can also use the IRS’s online Get Transcript Tool. Individuals can obtain a Tax Return Transcript, which reflects most line items including adjusted gross income (AGI) from the original tax return filed, along with any forms and schedules. This transcript is only available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years. Individuals can also obtain a Tax Account Transcript, which reflects basic data such as return type, marital status, adjusted gross income, taxable income and all payment types. This transcript is available for the current tax year and up to 10 prior years. Keep in mind that a transcript is not a photocopy of the return. A transcript can be confusing to read. Again, please contact our office for assistance.

Income-driven repayment plan

The DRT also provides tax data that automatically fill in information for the income-driven repayment (IDR) plan application for federal student loan borrowers. The DRT is online for DRT applications.

Written by

Steve Moss, CPA is a partner at Holden Moss CPAs and loves helping businesses and their owners grow to be the very best they can be. Our other offices include Raleigh, Oxford and Warrenton.

We are a little different at Holden Moss CPAs. While we still provide traditional tax and accounting services, years ago we realized many clients wanted help in running their businesses and were hungry for ideas, solutions, strategy, and execution. In response, we expanded our skill set and joined Ran One, a global network of business consulting firms. Our membership with Ran One gives us access to proprietary resources and analytical software to help our clients grow, become more profitable and valuable, and have the lifestyle they desire.

Now, blended into the fabric of our normal tax and accounting needs, we are focused on our clients’ businesses in a very different way. While our approach is not right for everyone, for those whom it is, incredible results may be obtained. Whether you have a new, or established, business, or for those in transition of selling or retiring, or for those who simply need to develop an exit strategy or succession plan, our unique approach to client service may be the edge you need.

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