Tool streamlines student financial aid applications

Most college students - and their parents - in Mohave County and across the nation know the tedium and frustration of applying for financial aid. The annual process is a thorn in nearly every student's side.

The Internal Revenue Service - not necessarily known for making life easy - recently created a tool that streamlines portions of the Federal Application for Student Aid.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool allows college and college-bound students to automatically transfer required tax data onto the application, said IRS media relations professional Bill Brunson.

It's an easy and secure way to access and transfer tax return information directly onto the FAFSA form, saving time and improving accuracy, he said. Instead of scrambling to gather the tax information and input the data manually, students can now move through the application like a hot knife through butter. The increased accuracy provided by the tool also reduces the likelihood of being selected for verification by the school's financial aid office, Brunson added.

To use the tool to complete your 2012 FAFSA, you must have filed a 2011 tax return, possess a valid Social Security number, have a federal student aid PIN number - getting one can be annoying, but you'll need it whether you use the data tool or not - and an unchanged marital status since Dec. 31.

There are some exceptions. If any of the following conditions apply to the student or parents, the tool cannot be used for the application: you filed an amended tax return for 2011, you didn't file at all, you had a status of "married filing separately" or you filed a Puerto Rican or other foreign tax return.

You don't have to download and install the tool, as it's now embedded in the online FAFSA application. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements, the tool will be at your disposal. Visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/index.htm to get started.