How to get copies of your tax returns

It’s well-known that we should keep copies of important records in safe places.  It’s pretty common to need receipts and other records to return items, make warranty claims, or prove that a bill has been paid.  It is especially important to keep copies of your tax returns. They can help you prepare future returns, and you also need them to amend previous returns, or to apply for a mortgage or business loan.

There are many ways to keep copies of your tax returns. You can scan them and keep them on an external hard drive, or a secure cloud drive. You may also want to keep hard copies somewhere safe, such as  in a bank safe deposit box or secure home safe. It’s also important to remember  which method you used to keep those records.

If you have not kept your records, or if you are not able to get access to them, there is still a way to retrieve them.  The IRS can give you a copy of your returns or a transcript of the information you need. Here’s how to ask for a copy of this important information.

Transcripts: On request, the IRS will send you a free tax transcript for the current and the past three years. A tax return transcript is a summary of your filed return that also includes items from attached forms and schedules you file. A tax account transcript includes your marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income. The transcript also shows changes that you or the IRS made after you filed your return.

How to get transcripts online: The fastest way to get a copy of transcripts is to fill out the Get Transcript application. Once your identity is verified, you will be able to get access to the information online immediately.

Snail mail: You can also get a copy of information the old-fashioned way (by mail), by ordering a tax return transcript or tax account transcript by using the online tool Get Transcript by Mail. You can also call 800-908-9946. Transcripts will arrive five to ten calendar days after the IRS gets your request.

Copies of returns: For $50 each,  you can get a copy of each filed and processed tax return you ask for. Complete Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to get returns for up to six past years. But this takes a long time to dig up: Allow 75 days for delivery. However, here’s a silver lining for people hit by disasters: The IRS will send you a free copy of your tax return if you live in a federally declared disaster area.

Although I do not practice tax law, I do like helping clients with record keeping and administrative matters. It can be challenging to deal with local, state, and federal government regulations and requirements. Please contact me if you’d like help with this. And thanks for reading.