How to Get an IRS 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.
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You can easily get a free copy of your tax transcript online from the IRS. The process involves navigating to the "Tax Records" section of the agency's website, and downloading your IRS transcript.

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 IRS transcripts.

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.

How do I get 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 IRS account, you can still request a transcript online. Here's how:

  • Go to the IRS Get Transcript site.

  • If you want the transcript to show on your screen (“Get Transcript Online”), you’ll need to authenticate your identity.

  • You'll need to supply your Social Security number, date of birth, filing status and mailing address from your latest tax return. You'll also need to have access to your email account and be able to supply your personal account number from a credit card, mortgage, home equity loan, home equity line of credit or car loan, as well as from a mobile phone with your name on the account.

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

What type of IRS transcript do I need?

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 10 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 10 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 10 prior years (if requesting with Form 4506-T) or up to three years (if requesting by mail or phone). It is available after June 15 for the current tax year.

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.

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, he or she may still have your tax returns on file as well.

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

  • State: $29.95 to $44.95.

  • All filers get access to Xpert Assist for free until April 7.

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

  • Federal: $39 to $119. Free version available for simple returns only.

  • State: $49 per state.

  • TurboTax Live packages offer review with a tax expert.

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

  • Federal: $29.99 to $84.99. Free version available for simple returns only.

  • State: $36.99 per state.

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

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