How to Request an IRS Copy of a Previous Years Tax Filing

Whenever a person files a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) it is always a good idea to make a copy of the return and safely store it in case a copy is ever needed. In some cases the files may become lost or damaged, and then it may be necessary to get a copy from the IRS. There may also be times, such as when buying a house or some other large purchase where proof of income requires a copy of the tax return. There are two ways to get the needed information and one is free and the other has a cost associated with it and which is right depends on the need of the individual.

The Exact Copy

If an exact copy of a previously filed and processed tax return is needed, in addition to all attachments (including Form W-2), it is necessary to complete a Request for Copy of Tax Return Form 4506 (PDF). The form must be signed by the filer or either spouse for joint returns and a check or money order for $57.00 for each tax year requested must be included. The check or money order must be made payable to the “United States Treasury”. It is generally possible to get copies for the current and previous six years but it also takes about 60 days for the IRS to process the order and deliver the copies via US Mail. 

The Next Best Thing

In many cases an actual copy of the tax return isn’t necessary and if this is the case there is a money saving alternative. Most needs for tax return information can be met with a computer print-out of your return information called a “transcript.” A transcript is an acceptable substitute for an exact copy of a return by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and  most lending agencies for student loans and mortgages. The “tax return transcript” shows the line items from the return as it was originally filed.

In those instances where there were changes made to the return after it was filed then a “tax account transcript” is required. Both types of transcripts are usually available for the current and previous three years.  The IRS provides these free of charge but if the information must be sent directly to the lender or other person or business then it is necessary to use the IRS Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript.  In order to have the information sent to a third party, the person filing the tax return must sign consent for disclosure that is a part of the form.

In those cases where the taxpayer wants a copy sent to the taxpayers address on the most recent tax form, it is possible to go on line and proved Social Security Number (or IRS individual taxpayer identification number); Date of birth; Street address; and Zip Code or Postal Code and the IRS will mail out a transcript at no charge within 5-10 days.

Filling out tax forms can be difficult and time consuming, but it is nice to know that the IRS can and does provide this information. Complete copies of tax returns can be a little pricey but the transcripts are free and generally that is all that is needed.