DeVos wants IRS to provide income information on student loan borrowers

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is calling on Congress to allow the Internal Revenue Service to give the Department of Education information on the income of student loan borrowers, warning that student loan applicants are misrepresenting their income and family size to qualify for reduced payment plans.

She urged a comprehensive review of income verification of income-driven repayment plans in response to a report from the Government Accountability Office recommending the Department Education verify borrowers' information to qualify for reduced repayment plans.

"The GAO report released today further proves what I've long said: there is significant risk in the federal student loan portfolio,” DeVos said in a statement. “For years there have been deliberate efforts to make the maze of student aid more complex for students and less accountable to the American taxpayers who underwrite it. Today's report is just the latest proof that many of the policy ideas previously pursued were poorly implemented. Misrepresenting income or family size is wrong, and we must have a system in place to ensure that dishonest people do not get away with it. We didn't create that problem, but rest assured we will fix it.”

The GAO said the Department of Education should do more to verify borrowers' income and family size because of the risk of potential error or fraud. More than 76,000 borrowers making no monthly payments may have had enough income to pay something, according to the report, and more than 35,000 borrowers had approved plans with atypical family sizes of 9 or more

DeVos said the GAO report highlighted the lack of accountability built into income-driven repayment plans that creates significant risk for taxpayers, and she wants the IRS to provide that information to her department, which depends on Congress giving it the statutory authority to do so. “That's why the Department has already looked at ways to better verify income and family size for all borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment programs,” she said. “However, without Congressional action, we are unable to partner with the Internal Revenue Service to independently verify this information. I am again calling on Congress to provide the Department the authority to independently verify income using IRS data. If Congress provides the Department with this authority, we could significantly reduce the risk of fraud and improper payments, save taxpayers money, and reduce the burden on borrowers when they annually recertify their income with the Department. While access to this IRS data is vital, until Congress passes legislation, we will work to be responsive to the GAO recommendations. The Department is also working to identify and refer cases of suspected fraud to the Department of Justice for prosecution."

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

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