July 31, 2013

When you file your taxes, keeping a copy of the final return is highly recommended but sometimes not possible, or forgotten. Having that copy, though, is often required for many financial decisions. Reasons include answering questions related to an IRS audit or investigation, or on a student loan or mortgage application. If you cannot find or did not save a copy of a prior year tax return, we can help you.

Optima Tax Relief has compiled a guide to help you obtain your tax returns quickly and easily:

What Can I Request?

Upon request, taxpayers are able to obtain a tax return transcript and a tax account transcript.

Tax return transcripts contain most of the line items from your initial tax return along with line items from schedules and forms accompanying the initial filing. Changes made through amended returns, will not show up on this type of transcript.

Tax account transcripts document any modifications made by the filer or the IRS to the original tax return, including any adjustments and amendments. This document has information such as your return type, your adjusted gross income, taxable income and what your marital status is.

How Can I Request Transcripts?

Transcripts are free and can be requested via the web, over the phone or by mail. Using the IRS’s website, www.IRS.gov, requests are made using the “Order a Transcript” tool. Phone requests are made by calling (800) 908-9946 and following the prompts.

Individuals requesting a 1040A, 1040 or 1040EZ tax return transcript must fill out IRS Form 4506T-EZ, otherwise known as the Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript.

Individuals or businesses requesting a tax account transcript must complete IRS Form 4506T, also known as Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

How Far Back Can I Request Transcripts?

Transcripts are free, and available for the present year and each of the three years prior.

How Long Will It Take to Receive My Tax Return?

It normally takes 5-10 calendar days to receive your information if you request your tax information via online or over the phone. If you request your tax information by mail, it can take up to 30 calendar days.

What If I Need the Actual Copy of the Tax Return I Filed?

If you regularly use an online preparation software like TaxACT or TurboTax, retrieving old returns should be relatively easy. If not,  taxpayers can request and receive the actual paperwork they filed directly from the IRS. The current year’s paperwork and up to the past six years are available.

Individuals requesting this information must mail $57 per tax year and IRS Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Turn-around time generally takes up to 60 calendar days.

What if I Live in a Federally Declared Disaster Area?

For taxpayers living in disaster areas, determined by the Executive Branch of the United States, the IRS may permit these individuals to request tax return paperwork. To see if you are eligible and your location qualifies, check out the IRS’ website www.IRS.gov and look for the “Disaster Relief” section. This section spells out all eligibility and application criteria.

It’s good practice to have prior year tax returns and other tax-related documents stored in a safe place and “in an orderly fashion” for a few years. You always want to be prepared in case of an audit!