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Avoid the rush: Get a tax transcript online

IR-2019-17, February 15, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers who need their prior-year tax records to either complete their 2018 tax return or to validate their income can use Get Transcript Online or Get Transcript by Mail.

Taxpayers often call or visit the IRS seeking their prior-year tax transcript, which is a record of their tax return. But the days around Presidents Day mark the busiest time of the year for the IRS. Taxpayers can avoid the rush by using online options that are faster and more convenient.

It’s always a good idea to keep copies of previously-filed tax returns. That recommendation is more important this year because, for some taxpayers, certain data from the 2017 tax return – the adjusted gross income -- will be required to validate their electronic signature on their 2018 tax return due April 15 for most filers. This is especially true for taxpayers who have switched tax software products this year.

Generally, for returning users, the commercial tax software product will carry over the prior-year information and make for an easy, seamless validation process. However, taxpayers using a new tax software product for the first time may be required to enter the information manually.

Here’s the way the electronic signature and signature validation work:

  • Taxpayers sign their returns electronically by creating a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN), also known as a Self-Select PIN. To validate that e-signature PIN, taxpayers must enter their birthdates and either their adjusted gross income from the prior-year return or the prior-year Self-Select PIN.
  • If taxpayers have kept a copy of their prior-year tax return, completing this task is easy. On the 2017 tax return, the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is on line 37 of Form 1040; line 21 on Form 1040-A; or line 4 on Form 1040-EZ.
  • If a copy of their 2017 tax return is not available, taxpayers may be able to obtain a copy from their previous year’s tax preparation software or previous tax preparer.
  • Taxpayers may also obtain a tax transcript online from the IRS.
    • Use Get Transcript Online to immediately view the AGI. Taxpayers must pass the Secure Access identity verification process. Select the “Tax Return Transcript” and use only the “Adjusted Gross Income” line entry.
    • Use Get Transcript by Mail or call 800-908-9946. Taxpayers who fail Secure Access and need to request a Tax Return Transcript can use the mail option.  Allow five to 10 days for delivery. Use only the “Adjusted Gross Income” line entry.

The electronic signature is the way the taxpayer acknowledges that information on the tax return is true and accurate. Validating the electronic signature by using prior-year adjusted gross income is one way the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry work to protect taxpayers from identity thieves.

Taxpayers who have been issued an Identity Protection (IP) PIN should enter it when prompted for an IP PIN by the software. The IP PIN will serve to verify the taxpayer’s identity. If the taxpayer has never filed a tax return before and is age 16, enter zero as the AGI.

The IRS has redesigned tax transcripts to partially mask all personally identifiable information for any person or entity on the 1040-series return. All financial entries remain fully visible. Taxpayers who need a tax transcript for income validation purposes can still use Get Transcript Online or by Mail. Review About the New Tax Transcript and the Customer File Number for more information.

As the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry have made progress against tax-related identity theft as part of the Security Summit effort, cybercriminals try to steal more personal information to file fraudulent tax returns. Masking personal data on tax transcripts is one way the IRS is helping to protect taxpayers from identity thieves.