The FAFSA for the 2012-13 award year begins the new era of FA (once again). In this new era, the FAFSA is intended to be completed by the student, as opposed to the school submitting the FAFSA after the student fills it out. As part of this, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is a main element.
The IRS Data Retrieval Tool isn't new this year, but it is the first time that it's become mandatory. The good thing about the tool is that it will cut down on the number of FAFSAs that have to be verified, but the bad thing is that smaller schools have to change how they are processing FAFSAs.
What the retrieval tool does is simply imports the student's tax information directly from the IRS to their FAFSA. Since it is genuine information from the IRS, then it has to be correct for Pell Grant purposes. As long as a student doesn't change the information that has been imported, then there is no need to verify the income information (even if the FAFSA is verified).
But how would anyone know if the information has been changed after it was imported? When a FAFSA is processed, it will come back with a certain code on the ISIR. This code tells the FA Administrator what happened with the retrieval tool. There is a code for if the student used the tool, one for if the student didn't, and one for if the student changed in the information after it was imported. A subsequent posting will list the codes and possible troubleshooting.
So far, the number of verifications is much lower than one would expect, so that part of it is true. However, it still has a few bugs as to whose information it can find. Some students who filed their taxes in January and February are still being told their information isn't found. Although this doesn't happen often, it does happen. Overall, it will be interesting to see what happens next.