It’s Not Too Late to Get a Copy of Your Federal Tax Return


Notice: Historical Content

This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current law, policies or procedures.

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2016-13, September 1, 2016

It’s September. Do you know where your federal tax return is? If not, there’s still time to get a copy for your records.

When you think of important documents you need to keep secure, your federal tax return should be among them. The Internal Revenue Service recommends you keep tax returns for a minimum of three years.

A copy or your federal tax return may help you when you apply for a mortgage or a student loan. Starting in January, you may need information such as your adjusted gross income from your 2015 tax return to file your taxes electronically.

Here’s how you can get a copy of your return for your records:

  • If you prepared your own taxes using tax software, you should be able to download a copy of your return. Generally, tax software providers keep your online account active so you can access your return information even after the filing season. For users of IRS Free File, you must download a copy of your return before the program updates for next year’s tax filing season. This normally occurs in mid-October.
  • If you paid a professional to prepare your return, you should have a copy. If not, call your tax preparer and ask for one.
  • If those options are not available, you can go to  to access Get Transcript Online or Get Transcript by Mail. A transcript is a summary of your tax return. The Tax Return Transcript contains your adjusted gross income.
    • Once you pass the Secure Access authentication process, Get Transcript Online allows you to download, view and save your tax transcript immediately.
    •  If you cannot pass Secure Access authentication, you can use Get Transcript by Mail on or call 800-908-9946. You should receive your transcript by mail within five to 10 days.

It will be important that you have a copy of your previous year’s tax return, beginning in 2017. It will make preparing your return easier and you will need certain information, such as your adjusted gross income (AGI).  

Providing your AGI will validate your signature on an electronic return that you prepare. The Electronic Filing PIN will no longer be available as an alternative to your prior-year’s AGI. Most software products will automatically fill in this information but, if you’re changing software products, you must enter this information yourself.

So remember to always save a copy of your tax return. Keep it in a safe and secure place.

IRS YouTube Videos:

  • Get Transcript – Plan Ahead – English | Spanish | ASL (obsolete)

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