Last Updated 13th March, 2012
If you forgot to save a copy of your old tax return or just don’t have access to a software program you used to prepare a previous tax year’s return, you do have the option of contacting the IRS directly for a copy.
The IRS offers you three options for getting a copy of your tax return: online, by phone, or by mail.
You don’t have to pay a fee to place an order and for most people, it’s usually just easier to order something called a “transcript” online using the interactive online tool. The transcript isn’t an actual copy of your tax return; rather it has most of the information filed on your tax returns, so that you or another party who might need it, can see what was previously filed.
Here are a few important things the IRS wants you to know about getting your federal tax return information from a previously-filed return, by obtaining either a transcript or an actual copy of your tax return.
Types of tax returns you can order. You can request a tax return transcript directly from the IRS for the past three tax years. All earlier tax years need to be requested with Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript.
Tax return transcripts show all line items from the tax return when it was originally filed. This would include any accompanying forms and schedules. Keep in mind that this won’t reflect any changes made after the actual return was filed.
Tax account transcripts show adjustments made later. Any adjustments either you or the IRS made after the tax return
was filed will show up on another type of transcript – called the tax account transcript. This transcript shows information such as marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income, and taxable income.
You can order a transcript by phone or online. It’s fairly easy to use the online tool called Order a Transcript on the IRS website. You can also call 1-800-908-994 and follow the prompts. You will need to provide your mailing address.
You can request forms through the mail. You will need to complete IRS Form 4506T-EZ to request a copy of your 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ tax return transcript through the mail. If you’re a business owner or individual that needs information from other forms, you’ll need to use Form 4506T to make your request.
It takes about one to four weeks to fulfill your request. It typically takes the IRS about five to 10 calendar days to process online and phone orders. If you placed an order by mail with Form 4506T or Form 4506T-EZ, it will typically take 30 calendar days for the IRS to deliver your tax account transcript.
There are fees for a previously processed return. If you need an actual copy –not a transcript — of a tax return that was previously processed, it will cost $57 for each tax year. You will need to complete Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax return, and mail that to the IRS address listed on the form for your area. Copies are usually available for the current year as well as the past six years. You will need to wait 60 day to get an actual copy of your return.