How to Get a Transcript of a Past Tax Return

Chris Bibey
by Chris Bibey

 

It may make more sense to get a transcript of a past tax return rather than an exact copy. If you need access to your personal tax information, obtaining a copy of a past tax return costs $57 per return. Requesting a transcript, however, is simpler and free of charge.

Let’s take a look at the two different types of tax transcripts:

Tax Return Transcript

This document will show most of the original information from your past tax return, but it is not an exact copy. Keep in mind that a Tax Return Transcript will not show any changes that may have been made after submitting the original tax return ― for example, if you filed Form 1040X (Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return). This type of transcript is typically used by people who are applying for a loan, such as a school loan or a car loan.

Tax Account Transcript

This type of document shows basic information, such as your filing status and adjusted gross income (AGI) from a past tax return. Similar to above, this transcript is not an exact copy. However, a Tax Account Transcript will include any adjustments that were made after the original return was filed.

To get a transcript of a past tax return, follow these basic steps:

1. Determine what kind of information you’re looking for ― do you need an exact copy of your past tax return, or just basic information from it (i.e., a transcript)?

2. Decide how you would like to obtain your transcript ― transcripts of past tax returns may be requested over the phone by calling 1(800)829-1040 or by completing and submitting IRS Form 4506T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return).

3. Wait ― it will take approximately 2 weeks for the IRS to process a Tax Return Transcript request. On the other hand, a request for a Tax Account Transcript may take up to 30 days to process. (Compare that to requesting an exact copy of a past tax return, which can take up to 2 months for the IRS to carry out.)

Here are a few FAQ’s regarding transcripts of past tax returns:

Q: How far back can I request a transcript for a past tax return?

A: Transcripts for past tax returns are available for the most recent tax year, as well as the three previous years. (Compare that to exact copies of tax returns, which may be retrieved up to six years back.)

Q: How much does it cost to get a transcript of a past tax return?

A: Unlike an exact copy, which costs $57 per tax return, the IRS does not charge a fee for getting transcripts. That being said, many people find that transcripts don’t provide enough information, and they end up requesting an exact copy and paying the fee anyway.

If you need to get a transcript of a past tax return, it will not take you very long to move through the process. Once you are sure that you want a transcript (and not an exact copy of a past tax return) you can contact the IRS via phone or mail. From there, it should take no more than 30 days to receive the information you requested. To ensure a timely delivery, it is essential that you request the proper type of transcript and complete Form 4506T in legible handwriting.

With the above advice in mind, you should be able to request and receive a transcript of a past tax return without any problems. If you determine that you need an exact copy instead, you may file IRS Form 4506 (Request for Copy of Tax Return).