How to Get an IRS Tax Transcript or Tax Return Copy

An IRS transcript or tax transcript is a summary of your tax return info. Here are the types and how to get one.
Tina Orem
Sabrina Parys
By Sabrina Parys and  Tina Orem 
Edited by Chris Hutchison Reviewed by Lei Han
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You can easily get a free copy of your tax transcript by creating or logging into your online IRS account. Other ways to get tax transcripts from the IRS include making a request by phone or mail. However, the agency's online portal is the quickest way for most people to retrieve certain tax records.

Tax transcripts can be used to show proof of income to lenders, such as when you apply for a mortgage or an auto loan. You can also use a tax transcript to see detailed information on your previous tax returns. If you file estimated taxes, tax transcripts can help you figure out how much you’ll need to pay in the future.

Requesting an IRS tax transcript

How to get an IRS transcript online

If you have an online IRS account, you can simply log in to your account and navigate to the "Tax Records" tab. There you'll be able to select, view or download the tax transcript you need.

If you don't have an existing IRS account, you can still request a transcript online by navigating to the IRS' Get Transcript web page to create an account. It's helpful to have a few things handy, such as your Social Security number, access to your preferred email address and a photo ID, before you begin.

How to get an IRS transcript via phone

  • Call the IRS at 800-908-9946.

  • The transcript will be sent to you in the mail.

  • Orders typically take 5 to 10 days to process.

How to get an IRS transcript by mail

  • Navigate to the IRS' Get Transcript web page and click on the "Get Transcript by Mail" button to begin your request. You'll need to supply your Social Security number, date of birth and address.

  • Per the IRS, orders will be mailed within 5–10 business days.

  • You can also print a copy of IRS Form 4506-T or IRS Form 4506-T-EZ, fill it out and mail it. Orders will be processed within 10 business days.

Types of IRS transcripts

However you decide to make your request, it's a good idea to make sure you know exactly what you need. There are five different kinds of tax transcripts you can get from the IRS.

1. Tax return transcript

What it contains: A tax return transcript shows most line items, including AGI, from your tax return.

What it's used for: It usually works for mortgages, financial aid and student loan lenders, but it doesn’t show changes made after you filed your original return.

How far back you can go: You can request one for the current tax year as well as the prior three years.

2. Tax account transcript

What it contains: A tax account transcript shows basic data such as return type, marital status, AGI, taxable income and payment type.

What it's used for: It's helpful in confirming that estimated tax payments were applied, and it also shows changes made after you filed your original return.

How far back you can go: You can request it for the current tax year and up to 9 prior years (if requesting online or with Form 4506-T) or up to three years (if requesting by mail or phone).

3. Record of account transcript

What it contains: A record of account transcript combines the tax return transcript and the tax account transcript.

How far back you can go: You can request it for the current tax year and prior three years.

4. Wage and income transcript

What it contains: A wage and income transcript shows data from your W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and IRA contribution information.

How far back you can go: You can request it for the current tax year and up to 9 prior years (if requesting online or with Form 4506-T). The current tax year information may not be up until July.

5. Verification of non-filing letter

What it contains: A verification of non-filing letter shows proof that the IRS has no record of a 1040 for a particular year. Note that it does not indicate whether you were required to file a return for that given year.

How far back you can go: You can request it for the current tax year and up to three prior years online. However, if letters for older years are needed, you must submit Form 4506-T.

How do I get my actual tax return?

IRS tax transcripts are not photocopies of your actual tax return with all the forms and attachments.

  • If you want an actual copy of an old tax return, you’ll need to complete IRS Form 4506 and mail it to the IRS.

  • There’s a $43 fee for copies of tax returns (unless you live in a federally declared disaster area), and requests can take up to 75 days to process.

    Internal Revenue Service. Request for Copy of Tax Return. Accessed Oct 17, 2022.

Are there other ways to get tax records?

If you’re looking for your tax records and you used tax software, your tax software provider may have them on file depending on which provider you used and what program you purchased. If you used a tax preparer, they may still have your tax returns on file as well.

  • Federal: $24.95 to $64.95. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $39.95 to $44.95.

  • All filers get access to Xpert Assist for free.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 25% off federal and state filing costs.

  • Federal: $55 to $110. Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $37 per state.

  • Online Assist add-on gets you on-demand tax help.

  • Federal: $59 to $119. Free version available for simple returns only.

  • State: $0 to $54 per state.

  • Live Assisted Basic is free through March 31.

Promotion: NerdWallet users can save up to $15 on TurboTax.

  • Federal: $19.95 to $49.95 Free version available for simple tax returns only.

  • State: $0 to $39.95 per state.

  • On-demand tax help at Premium and Self-Employed tiers.

Promotion: NerdWallet users get 30% off federal filing costs. Use code NERD30.

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