Tax Return Transcripts

How to Get Your Old Tax Returns from the Internal Revenue Service

Tax Return Transcripts
April 3, 2017

The IRS recommends that you keep tax records for at least three years from the date you filed your original return, and longer for special situations. You may need copies of your tax returns for tasks like filing future years' taxes, applying for a mortgage loan or student aid, or settling IRS inquiries.

How to Get Your Past Tax Returns

If you cannot find your old tax returns and need to order a tax return transcript from the IRS, you have several options. For the really old-school methods, you can call the IRS at 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts, or fill out IRS Form 4506T-EZ for an individual transcript and mail it to the address noted on the form. The IRS suggests that you submit mail requests thirty calendar days in advance of the need.

Phone requests should take a shorter period of time, but you have to worry about getting through the IRS's busy system, especially during tax season. The simplest and fastest way to get a copy of your tax return transcript is online through the IRS "Get Transcript" application. Orders placed online and by phone are usually delivered within five to ten days of the IRS receiving your request.

You may remember that Get Transcript was shut down in May of 2015 because of a hacking issue. Hackers were able to secure the identity-authentication-based answers of thousands of taxpayers through hacks on other sites and use them to gain access to taxpayer's IRS records. From there, it was a simple step to file fraudulent tax returns before taxpayers even realized they had been hacked.

The Get Transcript site is the quickest way to get transcripts ordered by mail. You still need to leave five to ten days from the date the request is filed through the site, but until returns can be displayed online securely, this is your best bet for a rapid response.

If you have moved since your last return, then you need to submit a Change of Address form (IRS Form 8822) prior to submitting your request through Get Transcript, since the Get Transcript tool will mail the transcript to your address of record listed on the tax form. The change of address process will also take several weeks — another reason why you should plan ahead when submitting your tax return transcript requests.

In specific circumstances, you may be able to speed up the process by using alternate systems that the IRS has in place with various institutions. If you are filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a necessity for virtually any form of student aid, you can use the built-in IRS data retrieval tool on the FAFSA website to transfer the necessary information without having to order a transcript. Similarly, any mortgage lender that participates in the Income Verification Express Service (IVES) can receive your transcript directly with your consent.

Note that these rules apply to tax return transcripts, which are different from tax account transcripts. Tax return transcripts show your return as it was filed. Tax account transcripts show any changes made to your form after filing, by either you or the IRS. If what you need is a tax account transcript, or you need a transcript for any period beyond three years ago, you will need to complete Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, and mail it to the address listed on the form.

If you need a tax transcript, review your options above — but whichever you choose, be sure to plan ahead far enough in order to have a transcript in hand when you need it.

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Tina | 04.11.16 @ 20:32
What a great idea for them to come up with a way to just call it up and print it. I used to work at a law firm and we had to request past returns all the time for people - this would speed up the process. But making it secure is definitely important. I try very hard to keep a hard copy filed away each year so I won't have to worry about ordering one.
Nancy | 04.11.16 @ 20:33
These are great suggestions. I especially like the one when filing the FAFSA. That'll help a lot.
Leslie | 04.11.16 @ 20:34
I always make sure to keep a copy of my tax returns, but it's great to know there are many options for getting a copy, especially since these options are so time consuming.
Zanna | 04.11.16 @ 20:34
I have a severe fear of being audited, and can't make myself get rid of any of our return records. Am bookmarking this in case I need transcripts at some point. I hope I never do, but you just never know.
Stokes | 04.11.16 @ 20:36
I have my tax returns from every year I've filed taxes since I was 18.
Elaine | 04.11.16 @ 20:37
This is such great information. Always wondered what folks would do if they list their info due to a natural disaster. Glad to know there are options.
Jonathan | 04.11.16 @ 20:38
Cool! Didn't know this was something you could do!
Victor | 04.11.16 @ 20:38
i think we should always try to maximixe the tax returns and this is a great article to have at hand when we are looking at the time of getting the transcripts done
Wanda Langley | 04.11.16 @ 20:40
Great Idea's for anyone needing Tax Returns from previous Years. I always keep mine for 5 years just to be Safe. I have had to go back 3 Years for my Son's Student Loan several Years ago.
trish | 04.11.16 @ 20:40
Great they came up with a way to get your past returns. I hold on to way too many years. Afraid to shred "Just in case" but knowing there is a way to get them makes me almost ready to do that!
Kamie | 04.11.16 @ 20:44
I never knew there was a way I could get my past files, this really helps a lot of headache that will be going on next year. This is a great thing for many people, especially if there is an off chance that the person could be audited.
Kamie | 04.11.16 @ 23:05
It is nice to be able to get your tax transcripts with just a call now, a great idea for anyone needing tax returns from previous years. Especially if something from a natural disaster were to happen and person lost everything.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 01.21.18 @ 04:26

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