Beware – Retirement savings rollover issue on FAFSA

There is a FAFSA issue that has been tripping up families with qualified retirement savings rollovers that can result in wildly inflated EFC’s (expected family contributions), thus reducing the amount of financial aid they qualify for.

Retirement savings moved from one qualified retirement plan to another qualified plan should not be reported as untaxed income on the FAFSA.

However, if a family uses the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) embedded in the FAFSA, any rollover will be reported incorrectly as the IRS DRT does not identify and exclude tax return IRA and/or pension distributions that have been rolled over into another account.

If an amount greater than $0 is transferred from the IRS into the untaxed portions of IRA distributions field or the untaxed portions of pensions field on the FAFSA form, the family will be required to answer a new question about whether or not that amount includes a rollover.

If the answer is “yes,” the family will be required to provide the amount of the rollover in a new entry field. The amount reported as the rollover amount will then be subtracted from the amount of the IRA or pension distribution that was transferred from the IRS.

We’ve heard of many families who are missing the step of entering the amount of the rollover in the new field, or doing it incorrectly. In this case, it is advised to not try to correct the error because by changing any of the tax data, a family compromises the data transferred from the IRS.

Instead, to correct any error, the family needs to work with the financial aid office at each of the colleges they’ve been accepted to and provide a copy of their IRS 1099-R form along with any other documentation requested by the schools.



  1. Ali Oop on September 1, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    The FASFA-IRS tool is still very much broken in many regards, including this rollover issue here in late 2020. Last year it was falsely claiming that I had several disqualifying factors because the IRS had recorded several attached tax forms that I hadn’t actually used. (Some oddity with e-filing had filled the unneeded forms with all zeros rather than leaving them blank, so they were “filed” with my tax return but meaningless.)

  2. Wendy Hughes on October 12, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    I agree. I couldn’t see which line they were talking about so I answered no when I should have answered yes. I thought it was asking about distributions, not the IRA that was rolled over from my parents death. Now, even thought that was a question actually asked, not prefilled, it won’t let me correct my answer and marked it as prefilled when it wasn’t. Very frustrating.

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