It happens every year. Just when you get motivated to get rolling on your taxes, you realize you can’t find the return you filed last year. Aaaarrrrggg!
First off, don’t panic if you can’t find the return. Yes, you need it to know what you claimed last year and how those claims relate to this years return. All is not lost, however. The IRS will provide you with a copy of your past tax returns if you ask nicely. Here is how to go about it.
The IRS will not send you the actual tax return. The agency, however, will send you their version of it. This is known as a tax return transcript and is a layout of the information you provided. It is essentially your return, but doesn’t look like it. You can rely on the transcript as though it was your original return.
When you contact the IRS to get the transcript, it is important to understand there are two types available. As is usual with the IRS, there are two choices just to confuse you. The first is the tax return transcript that is essentially the return you filed. The tax account transcript is your original return as modified by any changes made by the IRS or you. Which one is the correct one? If the IRS has not contacted you about an issue with the return, it is the tax return transcript. If they have, it the tax account transcript.
The IRS will give you any return for the past three filing years. The service is free. To get the copy, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Alternatively, you can get a copy by filling out and mailing in IRS Form 4506-T. It takes two weeks to a month for the agency to get the copy to you. If you discover you have a problem just before the relevant filing deadline, file for an extension so you don’t run afoul of filing laws. Remember, you have to pay any taxes due regardless of the extension, so try to guesstimate what you will owe.
If you lose a past tax return, there is no need to panic. The IRS will be happy to send you a copy. After all, an audit agent probably has the file on their desk as we speak!
Richard A. Chapo is with BusinessTaxRecovery.com - providing information on tax debt relief .