Matt Honan via flickr
Scrambling to find last year's tax return? Don't stress—we've compiled a guide with tips to help you track down that paper—and file your tax return before the October 17 deadline for extensions.
The IRS keeps tax returns on file for the last three years, including 2011, and obtaining them is totally free, says Daniel Stoica. an accountant who blogs about taxes.
There are three ways to get your transcipt: by phone, by web, or by snail mail.
To order by phone, call 1-800-908-9946 and follow the prompts. You should receive your return within five to days of your request, but allow 30 business days for delivery if you use a Form 4506T or Form 4506T-EZ, says Stoica.
To get your transcipt by mail, fill out one of the forms listed below by Kay Bell. a contributing editor at Bankrate :
• 4506T-EZ. Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, for a tax return transcript (also in Spanish ),
• 4506T. Request for Transcript of Tax Return, for a business, partnership or individual tax account transcript, or
• 4506. Request for Copy of a Tax Return, which will get you an exact copy of a previously filed and processed tax return and all attachments,
The third (and easiest) way to get a hold of your transcript is by ordering on the IRS website. But before you click the link, know the distinction between an exact copy of a tax return and a transcript, says Bell :
"A transcript is a computer printout that shows most of the line items found on your tax return when you filed it, including any accompanying forms and schedules. When it comes to verifying income, a transcript often is an acceptable substitute for a copy of your original tax return. However, any changes made after the return was filed will not be reflected on a basic transcript. For that you need a tax account transcript."
The IRS takes 10 to 30 business days to process requests for transcipts.
For a complete picture of your taxes, you'll need an exact copy of your filed return. That takes up to 60 days to process and costs $57 per copy.
You can make your life a whole lot easier if you have solid systems in place to keep track of your documents, Bell says. As tax time draws near, we'll be offering time-saving strategies to do this and spare you the headache of dealing with the IRS more than once a year.