If you used a tax preparer or accountant to do your taxes, the quickest way to get a copy of a previous year's 1040 is to reach out to him. He likely has the return on file, depending upon how old it is and depending upon his standard record keeping procedures. Similarly, if you used tax preparation software like TurboTax, a copy may be on your hard drive, or you can check online if you used a web application. However, if you don't have this easy access to an old 1040, you still have a number of options available for obtaining it.
How Long to Keep Tax Records
The IRS generally requires that you keep your tax returns and all supporting documentation for three years, which is the period of limitations that applies in most circumstances. That is, for three years after the return is filed, the IRS may review the return and take action based upon the information provided. This period may be longer in certain circumstances; for example, it is six years if you under-reported your income, or if you filed a fraudulent return, there is no limitations period.
Request a Copy of the 1040 or a Tax Transcript from the IRS
If you don't have access to your old returns through an accountant, tax preparer, or tax preparation software database, request the information directly from the IRS. You have two options: request either a tax transcript or an actual copy of the 1040 you filed.
If you need a copy of your filed 1040 along with schedules, worksheets and other attachments, the IRS will provide you with a copy for a $50 fee per tax year. Complete IRS Form 4506 and mail it to the address listed on the form along with the fee, payable to United States Treasury. You need only one form for up to four returns; if you're looking for more than eight tax years, you will need another form. You can obtain copies for the current tax year and the previous six years, although more may be available. It may take up to 75 days for delivery
You can obtain the information from your 1040 form without charge by ordering a tax transcript. There are multiple types of tax transcripts:
- A tax return transcript provides most of the information that would be on your 1040, including adjusted gross income (AGI), but it's available only for the current tax year and the previous three tax years.
- A tax account transcript includes only basic information, such as AGI, marital status and the type of return. This option is available for the current tax year and up to 10 years prior.
- A record of account transcript will provide both the tax return transcript and the tax account transcript in one complete transcript, and is available for the current tax year and the previous three tax years.
Obtain a tax transcript in the mail either by calling 800-908-9946 or by using Get Transcript link at the IRS website. You can also complete an IRS Form 4506T and submit as instructed on the form. Your transcript will be mailed to the address on file with the IRS within 10 days. If you want your transcript more quickly, request it online using Get Transcript (although availability may be limited).
You can get a copy of your tax return for free from the IRS if you live in a federally declared disaster area.
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