Did you know that you can obtain a copy of your IRS file? Most people would be
surprised to learn how much the IRS knows about them. Obtaining a copy of your IRS file is critical in
options available to resolve your tax problems.
Requesting copies of your IRS file is best done by a professional who understands how to obtain them
raising any red flags as well as how to interpret the information in your file.
How to get copies of your old tax returns from the IRS
The IRS recommends that you keep tax records for
at least three years from the date you filed your original return, and longer for special situations.
You may need copies of your tax returns for tasks like filing future years' taxes, applying for a
mortgage loan or student aid, or settling IRS inquiries.
If you cannot find your old tax returns and need to order a tax return
transcript from the IRS, you have several options. For the really old-school methods, you can call the
IRS at 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts, or fill out IRS Form 4506-T or Form 4506T-EZ for an individual transcript
and mail it to the address noted on the form. The IRS suggests that you submit mail requests thirty
calendar days in advance of the need to make sure you don't miss the filing deadline.
Let's say you owe money and you don't file on time, then you potentially have late filing
penalties and underpayment penalties. The laws are designed to incentivize you to pay on time
... and obviously the longer that you wait, the more of a thorn that can be at your
Phone requests should take a shorter period of time, but you have to worry
about getting through the IRS's busy system, especially during tax season. The simplest and fastest
way to get a copy of your tax return transcript is online through the IRS "Get Transcript" application. Orders placed
online and by phone are usually delivered within five to ten days of the IRS receiving your request.
You may remember that Get Transcript was shut down in May of 2015 because
of a security issue. Hackers were able to procure the identity-authentication-based answers of
thousands of taxpayers through hacks on other sites and use them to gain access to taxpayer's IRS
records. From there, it was a simple step to file fraudulent tax returns before taxpayers even
realized they had been hacked. All transcript types are now available online again.
The Get Transcript site is also the quickest way to get transcripts
ordered by mail. You still need to leave five to ten days from the date the request is filed through
If you have moved since your last return, then you need to submit a Change
of Address form (
IRS Form 8822) prior to
submitting your request through Get Transcript, since the Get Transcript tool will mail the transcript
to your address of record listed on the tax form. The change of address process will also take several
weeks — another reason why you should plan ahead when submitting your tax return transcript requests.
Note that these rules apply to tax return transcripts, which are different
from tax account transcripts. Tax return transcripts show your return as it was filed. Tax account
transcripts show any changes made to your form after filing, by either you or the IRS. If what you
need is a tax account transcript, or you need a transcript for any period beyond three years ago, you
will need to complete Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, and mail it to the address
listed on the form.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may cause your tax return for this year to be
quite different, from your tax bracket to whether you itemize or take the increased standard
deduction. If you need a tax transcript, review your options above — but whichever you choose, be sure
to plan ahead far enough in order to have a transcript in hand when you need it.