Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Together We Can Advocate for Relief During the IRS DRT Outage!

Good afternoon SASFAA,

It’s time to get serious Folks! Are you seeing more ISIRs selected for verification since the IRS DRT is no longer available? Are you working on that list of 399s that keeps growing? Are you doing all this with limited staff? Please use the letter below, approved by NASFAA, to start advocating for relief!
This is just a template, so please feel free to tweak and then add you and your delegate’s information and send to your local representatives.

Christen R. Barrett
Associate Director of Financial Aid
Savannah College of Art and Design®

SASFAA Legislative Relations Committee Chair, 2016-2017

Date XX, 2017

Member of Congress Name

The Honorable [Insert member of Congress here]

As an acting financial aid administrator at XX college/university, I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the impact that the outage of the IRS’s Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is having on my students’ ability to apply for and receive federal student aid. For nearly ten years, the DRT has allowed students to transfer their tax information directly into the Free Application of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The IRS DRT is the cornerstone of FAFSA simplification and the outage directly affects both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 award years and adversely affects low-income students. If not addressed by October 1, this will also affect 2018-19 applicants. 
Along with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), I write to ask for your support in seeking relief for the millions of FAFSA filers who are, or will be, affected by the DRT outage. Students who are unable to use the DRT are more likely to be selected for verification—an often-arduous process that often delays the delivery of financial aid, and sometimes deters students from completing the financial aid process and attending college.

With a sincere desire to assist our students, in alignment with requests made by NASFAA and members of House and Senate education committees, I request that the Department of Education to provide the following relief for students:

1) Allow signed copies of federal tax returns from applicants to satisfy verification documentation requirements in place of DRT information and/or IRS tax return transcripts. 

2) For tax non-filers, allow for the submission of W2 forms and allow applicants to note non-filing within the institutional verification worksheet.

3) Revise the verification selection criteria to provide a more generous tolerance to ensure that the numbers of students selected for verification remains stable and manageable by institutions so that financial aid processing can continue uninterrupted.

4) Provide an increase in the tolerance level before assigning an error (399) code that indicates a conflict in a student’s information between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 FAFSA.

Students and colleges in your district need the IRS to bring this tool back online as securely and quickly as possible. However, in the interim, these steps will go a long way toward helping students, particularly those with low income, access federal funding for postsecondary education.  

Thank you for your time and consideration.



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