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Getting a Transcript From the IRS

The Boston Transcript Building
Often when dealing with an issue regarding a prior year’s tax return it is necessary to get a copy of the information that the IRS has on record for your return as filed.  Of course, you should always keep a copy of your original return, but in the absence of an original, the IRS’s record, known as a “transcript”, stands as the only way for you to have access to the filed information.  A couple of months ago the IRS sent around their Summertime Tax Tip 2012-18 which details how you can request and receive a transcript for a prior year’s return.

The actual text of IRS Summertime Tax Tap 2012-18 follows:

How to Get a Transcript or Copy of a Prior Year’s Tax Return from the IRS

Taxpayers should keep copies of their tax returns, but if they cannot be located or have been destroyed during natural disasters or by fire, the IRS can help.  Whether you need your prior year’s tax return to apply for a loan or for legal reasons, you can obtain copies or transcripts from the IRS.

Here are 10 things to know if you need federal tax return information from a previously filed tax return.

  1. Get copies of your federal tax return via the web, phone, or by mail.
  2. Transcripts are free and are available for the current and past three tax years.
  3. A tax return transcript shows most line items from your tax return as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules.  It does not reflect any changes made after the return was filed.
  4. A tax account transcript shows any later adjustments either you or the IRS made after you filed your tax return.  This transcript shows basic data including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income.
  5. To request either type of transcript online, go to and use the online tool called Order A Transcript.  To order by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts in the recorded message.
  6. To request a 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ tax return transcript through the mail, complete IRS Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript.  Businesses, partnerships and individuals who need transcript information from other forms or need a tax account transcript must use Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.
  7. If you order online or by phone, you should receive your tax return transcript within five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives your request.  Allow 30 calendar days for delivery of a tax account transcript if you order by mail.
  8. If you need an actual copy of a previously filed and processed tax return, it will cost $57 for each tax year you order.  Complete form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, and mail it to the RIS address listed on the form for your area.  Copies are generally available for the current year and past six years.  Please allow 60 days for delivery.
  9. The fee for copies of tax returns may be waived if you are in an area that is declared a federal disaster by the President.  Visit, keyword “disaster”, for more guidance on disaster relief.
  10. Forms 4506, 4506-T and 4506T-EZ are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
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