Students applying for federal financial aid should plan for the tool that retrieves their tax information to be unavailable until next financial aid season, the IRS and the Department of Education said in a joint statement.
The IRS removed the data retrieval tool from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website March 3 without warning due to suspicious activity.
Extra security protections must be added before the tool is made available again.
“We know this tool is an easy way for students and families working on applications to access their financial data,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in the joint statement. “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 link to the tool wasn't removed from the FAFSA site, causing another problem: Applicants clicking on it are kicked out of the application and forced to start over again.
The IRS said it took the tool down as a precaution because of concerns identity thieves could misuse information from the tool after seeing suspicious activity.
The IRS did not describe the suspicious activity but said it appears relatively isolated. No breach has been confirmed.
Those who filled out FAFSA prior to the removal of the data retrieval tool should be fine.