While some taxpayers still file their annual returns the old-fashioned way with a wet ink signature and a postage stamp, many choose instead to file electronically. If you do e-file your tax return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires you to use a personal identification number (PIN) to validate your return and act as your electronic signature. If you have e-filed your tax return in the past, you have already chosen a PIN. At one time, the IRS website featured an online tool to recover a lost PIN, but in 2016, the tool was removed in response to a hacking threat. Not to worry, however; If you don't have your PIN from last year, you can use your adjusted gross income (AGI) from last year's tax return to verify your identity.
Choosing Your PIN: Self-Select or Practitioner
You have two options when it comes to signing your electronically-filed tax return. You may choose the self-select PIN method or the practitioner-PIN method. Choosing the self-select PIN option means you must either know your PIN form the prior year, or you must have access to your prior year tax return so you can use your prior-year AGI.
If you use the practitioner method to file your tax return, you're not required to provide last year's PIN or AGI. However, you'll be required to sign a signature authorization form.
Finding Your AGI: Use Your Prior-Year Return
Perhaps the easiest way to get your AGI from last year's taxes is to simply check that tax return. If you filed Form 1040, your AGI is located on line 37. On Form 1040A, AGI is located on line 21. AGI appears on line 4 of form 1040EZ. Your AGI from last year's tax return must match IRS records.
If you used tax preparation software like TurboTax, locate your prior-year PIN and AGI from your saved tax return. If you filed returns using tax preparation tools online, such as TurboTax online, your prior year's return should be available to you depending upon the package you purchased. If you used software downloaded to your computer, the prior year's return may be saved on your hard drive. Your tax preparation software's customer service should be able to walk you through accessing your prior returns. If you paid a tax preparer or accountant to do your taxes last year, visit your preparer or CPA to obtain a copy of last year's tax return.
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Finding Your PIN: Contact the IRS
If you cannot access your prior year return to obtain your AGI and you don't know your prior year PIN, you must request a tax transcript from the IRS. There are three ways to request your transcript:
1) Use the Get Transcript tool at the IRS website. You will need your Social Security number; your date of birth; your taxpayer filing status (i.e., single, married filing jointly, etc.); the mailing address from your prior year return; access to your email account; a personal account number from a credit card, mortgage, or other loan; and a mobile phone in your name. You will receive a downloadable version of your prior year's transcript.
2) Order a transcript by mail. There is a link for ordering a transcript by mail on the Get Transcript page of the IRS website. You will need to enter your Social Security number, date of birth, and the mailing address from your prior year return. You will receive a paper copy of your prior-year tax transcript in the mail from the IRS within five to 10 days.
3) Call 1-800-908-994 to speak with an IRS customer service representative, who will assist you in obtaining last year's transcript.
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