How to get your prior-year tax information from the IRS

We all file our taxes each year, and dutifully, we each keep copies in our files, right?  You know, along with all the receipts, your copies of your W-2 and 1099s.

So what happens if you need some of the information but can’t find it?  The IRS can’t necessarily help with everything – they don’t have all your receipts for example – but they do have a copy of your return, and a transcript of any later adjustments made to it (either by them or by you).  And the IRS will give you copies of that information for free.  An exact copy, rather than a transcript, is also available but it’s not free.

There are three different things you can order from the IRS:
(i) a tax return transcript – which provides most of the actual line items from your original tax return
(ii) a tax account transcript – which provides basic information such as your marital status, the type of return you filed, your AGI, your taxable income and any later adjustments which may have been made
(iii) an exact copy of a previously filed and processed tax return (including all attachments such as your W-2 forms)

If you need one of the two transcripts rather than the exact copy, you have three ways of obtaining one: phone, mail or internet.  The internet is usually the most convenient way to do this.  Go to http://www.irs.gov and search for “order a transcript”.  (Exact links to things within the IRS site aren’t always as helpful).  If you want to order it by phone or mail, that’s still the best way to get the detailed instructions and forms.

If you need the exact copy, you’ll need to file a  form 4506, which may be obtained here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506.pdf

The exact copy costs $57 for each tax period requested.

For more information directly from the IRS, see http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc156.html

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