The IRS data retrieval tool on the Federal Student Loan Web page and is currently unavailable.

The tool allows students to automatically download information from their or their parents’ tax returns.

The IRS expects that the online data tool will be down for several weeks, suspended as part of a security effort following concerns that information from the tool could be misused by ID thieves.

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid and the IRS are investigating the issue.

The IRS building in Washington, D.C.
Bloomberg News

News outlets confirmed that concerns about a potential security breach prompted the federal government to shut down the link, potentially complicating students’ filing assistance. The shutdown comes as state deadlines for financial aid loom, outlets added.

The IRS said that investigators believe the issue is isolated.

Commenters on a National Association of Student Aid podcast called the lack of notification and other specifics from both the IRS and the FSA “odd” and “troubling” given that the outage started days ago.

Applicants filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and applying for an income-driven repayment plan can manually provide the requested financial information from copies of their returns – which observers said will greatly complicate millions of students applying for aid.

Jeff Stimpson

Jeff Stimpson is a veteran freelance journalist who previously served as editor of The Practical Accountant.