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Here’s How to Get Prior-Year Tax Information

IRS Tax Tip 2018-43, March 21, 2018

As people are filing their taxes, the IRS reminds taxpayers to hang onto their tax records. Generally, the IRS recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. Taxpayers should keep some documents — such as those related to real estate sales — for three years after filing the return on which they reported the transaction.

Use a Tax Return to Validate Identity

Taxpayers using a tax filing software product for the first time may need their adjusted gross income amount from their prior year’s tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Those who need a copy of their tax return should check with their software provider or tax preparer first, as prior-year tax returns are available from the IRS for a fee.

Order a Transcript

Taxpayers who cannot get a copy of a prior-year return may order a tax transcript from the IRS. A transcript summarizes return information and includes AGI. They’re free and available for the most current tax year after the IRS has processed the return. People can also get them for the past three years.

The IRS reminds people ordering a transcript to plan ahead, because 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 Using Get Transcript. They 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 using the Secure Access process. Taxpayers who are unable to register or prefer not to use Get Transcript Online may use Get Transcript by Mail to order a tax return or account transcript type. Please allow five to 10 calendar days for delivery.
  • By phone. The number is 800-908-9946.
  • By mail. Taxpayers can complete and send either Form 4506-T or Form 4506T-EZ to the IRS to get one by mail. They 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.

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.

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