Posted Date: June 2, 2017

Author:  John Kane, Acting Service Director, Program Management, Federal Student Aid

Subject: IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) Restored for Electronic IDR Plan Request

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) is now available for borrowers applying for an income-driven repayment plan. Extra security protections have been added to the IRS DRT for use by borrowers completing the Electronic Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan Request, providing greater protection of taxpayer information.

In March 2017, the IRS suspended use of the DRT because of privacy and security concerns. The suspension of the IRS DRT impacted the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), as well as the Electronic IDR Plan Request available on the StudentLoans.gov website. We informed the financial aid community in a May 3, 2017 Electronic Announcement of the status of the IRS DRT for FAFSA processing and the solution that Federal Student Aid (FSA) will implement on October 1, 2017, for the 2018–19 FAFSA cycle. In this Electronic Announcement we provide information about the restoration of the IRS DRT for borrowers completing the Electronic IDR Plan Request.

The Electronic IDR Plan Request is available for borrowers that wish to apply online to repay their eligible William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program and/or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans under one of the four “income-driven” repayment plans—Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)—for which they qualify. To complete the Electronic IDR Plan Request, borrowers must supply income and family size information to determine their eligibility and calculate their monthly payment amounts. During the recent suspension of the IRS DRT, all borrowers completing the Electronic IDR Plan Request have been required to submit income documentation manually to their federal loan servicer (by mail, fax, or online upload), rather than transferring the information directly from the IRS DRT web page into the application.

In the following sections, we provide important information about the restoration of the IRS DRT to the Electronic IDR Plan Request:

  • Solution to Restore the IRS DRT to the Electronic IDR Plan Request
  • Resulting Changes to the Electronic IDR Plan Request
  • Contact Information

Note: For an overview of the complete Electronic IDR Plan Request process, refer to the December 17, 2015 Electronic Announcement and its attachment titled “Electronic IDR Plan Request.”

Solution to Restore the IRS DRT to the Electronic IDR Plan Request

To restore the IRS DRT to the Electronic IDR Plan Request on StudentLoans.gov, we have implemented a solution similar to what is described in the May 3, 2017 Electronic Announcement for the 2018–19 FAFSA form. To address both privacy and security concerns related to the IRS DRT, the IRS and FSA agreed to implement a solution that reinstates the use of the IRS DRT for borrowers completing the Electronic IDR Plan Request, but limits the information that displays to the borrower. This solution further encrypts the critical taxpayer information and hides it from view on both the IRS DRT web page and the Electronic IDR Plan Request. While borrowers can now once again electronically transfer their IRS tax return information to their federal loan servicer, the financial information will not be visible to malicious actors.

We have implemented the additional security and privacy measures for the Electronic IDR Plan Request earlier than for the FAFSA form because changes to the Electronic IDR Plan Request functionality require less time to complete than FAFSA functionality changes.

Resulting Changes to the Electronic IDR Plan Request

To securely restore the IRS DRT to the Electronic IDR Plan Request and to ensure borrowers understand the necessary updates to functionality, we have implemented the following changes to the home page and to Step 2 of the application:

Home Page – On the home page of the Electronic IDR Plan Request, we enhanced the high-level description of the IRS DRT. We now inform borrowers that if they choose to transfer their tax return information electronically into the Electronic IDR Plan Request, the financial information will not be displayed for security reasons, but they will be informed that the transfer was successful. Instructions also have been added for borrowers who submitted an Electronic IDR Plan Request when the IRS DRT was not available, but who have not yet manually submitted income documentation to their federal loan servicer. These borrowers may complete a new Electronic IDR Plan Request and transfer their income information electronically. The new application with the transferred tax information will be sent to their servicer to replace the previous one.

Step 2, Income Information – After borrowers leave the home page and complete the initial Application Information section, they proceed to the Income Information section. This step in the application has been updated as follows:

  • After the borrower chooses “Link to IRS” and completes the authentication step on the IRS DRT web page, new text explains that for the borrower’s protection, the IRS will not display and will further encrypt his or her tax return information. The borrower is advised that the information will be securely transferred to the Electronic IDR Plan Request, but that the application on StudentLoans.gov also will not display the encrypted tax return information.

Note: The IRS will now mail a notification letter to any taxpayer who accesses his or her tax return information using the IRS DRT. The letter will be sent to the address the IRS has on file for the taxpayer and will include IRS contact information if the taxpayer has any questions.

  • When the borrower completes the transfer on the IRS DRT web page and returns to Step 2 of the Electronic IDR Plan Request, text explains that the transfer of his or her tax return information was successful and the information will be sent electronically to the borrower’s servicer. The transferred Tax Year displays on the Electronic IDR Plan Request web page, but “Transferred from the IRS” displays for the Adjusted Gross Income and Filing Status fields.

There is no change to the process for borrowers that choose not to transfer their tax return information or for those borrowers that have had a substantial change in income since their previously filed tax return. After returning to the application from the IRS DRT web page, borrowers are presented with a series of income questions to determine if they are required to submit alternative documentation of income to their servicer. If appropriate, the application’s confirmation page will instruct borrowers to contact their servicer for more information about submitting the documents by mail, fax, or online document upload.

Step 2, Repayment Estimator – After the income information section is complete, the borrower is presented with the Repayment Estimator to estimate monthly payments for each of the IDR plans. To address security and privacy concerns, the borrower’s income no longer prepopulates in this tool. The borrower needs to manually enter his or her income to receive an estimated monthly payment for each IDR plan. Enhanced messaging strongly emphasizes that the amounts are estimates, and, ultimately, the borrower’s servicer will determine eligibility, payment amounts, and repayment periods (using the borrower’s transferred IRS tax return information, if applicable).

We believe the updates to the Electronic IDR Plan Request described above both ensure the protection of personal data and provide borrowers the guidance they need to navigate smoothly through the revised application. We have worked with our federal loan servicing partners to ensure borrower communications are updated to address the changes and support borrowers through the entire Electronic IDR Plan Request process.

We thank the community for its patience as we worked to implement these important changes.

Contact Information

Borrowers may contact members of the financial aid community with questions about the Electronic IDR Plan Request. We appreciate the assistance you will provide in directing borrowers as follows:

Electronic IDR Plan Request Technical Assistance

  • A borrower who is logged in to StudentLoans.gov and completing the Electronic IDR Plan Request may request technical assistance by clicking on the “Contact Us” link at the bottom of the page or by choosing “Customer Support” from the main menu at the top of the page. The borrower can contact the Student Loan Support Center at the phone number provided or request assistance by email or live chat.
  • A borrower who has completed the Electronic IDR Plan Request and received a confirmation page must request assistance from the servicer or servicers identified on the confirmation page. A borrower’s servicer is the primary point of contact for all questions about the completed Electronic IDR Plan Request or processing status.

REPAYE, PAYE, IBR, and ICR Plan Information

  • A borrower’s servicer is the primary point of contact for all questions about the REPAYE, PAYE, IBR, and ICR plans. In addition, general information about the plans is available on the Income-Driven Plans page on StudentAid.gov.

 

   

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