Citing a potential cybersecurity issue, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) removed the Data Retrieval Tool that automatically pulled in parents tax return data from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) portal.
IRS officials said the move was made after learning cybercriminals used information obtained from outside the tax system to hack into FAFSA in order to snatch additional information that would allow them to file false tax returns. At this time it is not known how many people were affected by this intrustion.
The tool was placed offline in early March. The tax agency said it will remain unavailable until extra security measures can be added and that it recognizes this is a major inconvenience. Until the tool is patched tax information will have to be input manually into the very complex FAFSA form.
“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,” said James W. Runcie, Federal Student Aid chief operating officer, in a statement.