IR-2018-225, November 19, 2018
WASHINGTON — The IRS reminds taxpayers to keep a copy of their past tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years. Certain key information from their prior year return may be required to file in 2019.
This is the fifth in a series of reminders to help taxpayers Get Ready for the upcoming tax filing season. The IRS has recently updated its Get Ready page with steps to take now for the 2019 tax filing season.
Keeping copies of prior year tax returns saves time. Often previous tax information is needed to file a current year tax return or to answer questions from the Internal Revenue Service. Taxpayers claiming certain securities or debt losses should keep their tax returns and documents for at least seven years.
Use a tax return to validate identity
Taxpayers using tax filing software for the first time may need their adjusted gross income (AGI) amount from their prior year’s tax return to verify their identity. Learn more at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return. Those who need a copy of their tax return should first check with their software provider or tax preparer. Taxpayers can also obtain a free tax transcript from the IRS, or for a fee, order a copy of their tax return.
Order a transcript
A tax transcript can be ordered from the IRS. It summarizes tax return information and includes AGI. Tax transcripts are free and available for the most current tax year after the IRS has processed the tax return. Tax transcripts are available for the past three tax years.
Plan ahead. Delivery times for online and phone orders typically take five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives the request. Taxpayers who order by mail should allow 30 days to receive transcripts and 75 days for tax returns.
There are three ways for taxpayers to order a transcript:
- Online. Taxpayers can use Get Transcript Online on IRS.gov to view, print or download a copy of all transcript types. Those who use it must authenticate their identity and create an account using the Secure Access process. Please allow five to 10 calendar days for delivery.
- By phone. Call 800-908-9946.
- By mail. Taxpayers who are unable to register or prefer not to use Get Transcript Online may use Get Transcript by Mail. Taxpayers can complete and send the IRS either Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript. Use Form 4506-T to request other tax records: tax account transcript, record of account, wage and income and verification of non-filing. These forms are available on the Forms, Instructions and Publications page on IRS.gov.
The IRS is now redacting tax transcripts so that sensitive information, such as the taxpayer’s name, address and Social Security number, is partially masked. However, all financial entries, such as the adjusted gross income, are visible. The redacted transcript will better protect taxpayers from identity theft.
Those who need an actual copy of a tax return can get one for the current tax year and as far back as six years. The fee per copy is $50. Taxpayers can complete and mail Form 4506 to request a copy of a tax return and mail the request to the appropriate IRS office listed on the form.
If taxpayers need information to verify payments within the last 18 months or a tax amount owed, they can view their tax account.