The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Federal Student Aid (FSA) jointly issued a statement on Thursday announcing the unavailability of IRS’s Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) till extra security protections are added.
The IRS said identity thieves may have used personal information obtained outside the tax system to access the FAFSA form in order to gain access to tax information through the DRT. While the IRS works to identify the number of people affected by fraud, the agency will also review the extent to which this has contributed to fraudulently filled tax returns.
DRT is used by students as a convenient method of accessing income information required to complete FAFSA applications, and to apply for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.
“We know this tool is an easy way for students and families working on applications to access their financial data,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “While this tool provides an important convenience for applicants, we cannot risk the safety of taxpayer data. Protecting taxpayer data has to be the highest priority, and we will continue working with FSA to bring this tool back in a safe and secure manner.
The agency is also making plans to notify those who may have been affected by the identity theft through letters sent by mail. In the meantime, FSA and IRS urged parents and students to apply online since the income information needed to complete the FAFSA and apply for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan can be found on a previously filed tax return.