In this age of digital information and communication, filing your tax return electronically saves time, postage and paper. If you file electronically, keep a backup copy of your return. You may need it to check the data you transmitted on a previous year's return to prepare your current year’s return or to produce income information on request. If you can’t put your hands on a previous year’s tax return, you can access it online.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you used a tax preparer service or tax software, you can access your tax returns through the account set up to prepare your taxes. Otherwise, you can access your previous years' tax returns through the IRS website at www.irs.gov.
View My Tax Return Online
If you paid a professional tax preparer to file your tax return, the easiest way to view this information online is to access an online account that the tax preparer set up for you. You may need to create an online account if you don’t already have one, but your tax preparer can walk you through the steps. If this option is not available to you, there’s another way to retrieve your tax information, by accessing the database of the IRS.
Search IRS Transcripts
Transcripts are not exact duplicates of your tax return, such as a photocopy would render, but they are summaries of the data that appears on your return. If you simply want to view the information online, for example, you want to your IRS refund from a previous year, a transcript fits the bill. The icing on the cake is that the IRS provides online transcripts free of charge.
Understand the IRS Transcript Types
The IRS provides different types of transcripts to suit different needs. Some of the transcripts available that are free to you if you access them online include:
- Tax Return Transcript. You may need to provide income information from a past-year tax return when you apply for a mortgage or refinance loan or seek student financial aid. Typically, mortgage lenders and student loan administrators require you to provide income verification for the past three years, so the Tax Return Transcript fulfills that request. This transcript provides comprehensive information, such as your adjusted gross income, any forms and schedules you submitted and most line item data. This type of transcript is only available for the current year’s tax return and your returns for the previous three years. It does not reflect any changes you or the IRS made after you filed the original return.
- Tax Account Transcript. This type of transcript is available for the current year’s tax return as well as the returns for the previous 10 years. It provides an overview of the basic data that was entered in your tax return, such as adjusted gross income, taxable income, marital status and any changes you may have made after filing the return.
- Wage and Income Transcript. This type of transcript provides all the income data you submitted from forms such as W-2 Wage and Tax Statement, Form 5498 IRA Contribution Information and the 1099 series of income documents. These transcripts are available for returns filed for the prior 10 years.
Obtain Your IRS Transcript
Create an online IRS account by searching for “Get Transcript Online” at IRS.gov and following the prompts. You’ll need to provide this information to register your account:
- Your Social Security number, mailing address from your most recent tax return, filing status and date of birth
- Your email address
- A mobile phone that has your name on the account
- Verification of a personal account from a credit card, mortgage or certain types of consumer loans
After you have created your online IRS account, you’ll be able to view a transcript of your tax return immediately. You can also print or download the information. If you request a copy of your transcript by mail or by fax, expect a five to 10-day wait.
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