Getting Copies of Past Tax Returns

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor

There are many reasons why you may need to obtain a copy of a past tax return. Perhaps you simply lost your copy or there is a pressing financial transaction on the line. Overall, it is important to understand how to request a copy of a tax return so you can access that information in a timely manner.

You may need a copy of your tax return if you lost tax documents for a particular year. If you had your Federal income tax return completed by a paid tax preparer, they should be able to provide you a copy of your return. Otherwise, you should get in touch with the IRS to request the tax documents that you need.

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Are you applying for a student loan or a mortgage loan? If so, the lender will request your financial information, which includes past tax information. While every lender is different, most will require a copy of your most recent income tax return. In some cases (such as applying for a home mortgage loan) you may be required to provide your tax returns for the past 2 to 3 years. You may also need a copy of a past tax return if you want to modify or refinance your mortgage loan. While a tax return transcript may be enough for some lenders to make an informed decision, you should always check to make sure.

Depending on what type of information you need from your past tax return, you may choose to request an exact copy or a more basic transcript. Note that it costs $50 to obtain a copy of a past tax return from the IRS. However, if you do not need an exact copy of your tax return, there are also options for obtaining free copies of your Federal tax return information (online, by telephone, or by paper mail).

How to Request an Exact Copy of a Past Tax Return

There is a $50 fee for each tax return that you request from the IRS. Typically, you can request copies of Tax Forms 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ for up to 6 years ago (before they’re destroyed by law). Copies of other types of tax forms may be available for longer than 6 years.

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You can request a copy of a past tax return by using IRS Tax Form 4506 (Request for Copy of Tax Return). Note that you are only allowed 1 copy per request form, so for each additional copy of a tax return that you want, you must submit a separate Form 4506. Make sure your full payment (of $50) is included with your request. Also keep in mind that it may take the IRS up to 60 days to process your request.

How to Request a Transcript of a Past Tax Return

If you don’t need an exact copy of a tax return, you should consider requesting a free Tax Return Transcript from the IRS instead. A transcript contains most of the information from the original tax return (which is usually enough for a mortgage lender if you’re applying for a home loan. Transcripts are available for the following IRS tax forms: Form W-2, Form 1099 series, Form 1098 series, or Form 5498 series. You can have copies of tax returns mailed directly to you or the IRS can send them to a third party for you.

To request a transcript, you can use IRS Tax Form 4506-T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return). Additionally, you can request a transcript online at the IRS website by clicking on “Order a Transcript,” or using your telephone by calling 1-800-908-9946.

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In most cases, you can request a transcript for up to 3 years ago. Most requests are processed within 10 days after the IRS receives your request. Remember that your state tax information will not be available/included in your IRS transcript. If you need your W-2 information for retirement purposes, you are encouraged to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA).

There are many reasons why you may need to get a copy of a past tax return. Luckily, requesting a past tax return (whether an exact copy or a transcript) is simple enough for any taxpayer to do.

 

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