How to Get an IRS Tax Transcript or Copies of Tax Returns

An IRS transcript or tax transcript is a summary of your tax return info. Here are the types and how to get one.
Tina OremApr 20, 2021
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If you need to see your past tax information, here's how to get it from the IRS by requesting an IRS transcript, also called a tax transcript.

What is an IRS tax transcript?

An IRS transcript or tax transcript is a summary or overview of your tax return information. There are five types of tax transcripts, and they include most line items from your tax return, such as your adjusted gross income (AGI), information about your filing status, payments and return type. You can request an IRS transcript any time for free.

What does a tax transcript show?

Tax transcripts display only partial personal information, such as concealing all but the last four digits of your Social Security number. But financial and tax information, such as wages and taxable income, is fully visible. The different types of transcripts show different information (for more information see the table below).

Why would I need a tax transcript?

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.

IRS transcript types

There are five different kinds of tax transcripts you can get from the IRS. You’ll want to choose the type of transcript you request based on what you’ll be needing it for.

IRS transcript type

What it contains

How far back you can go

Notes

Tax return transcript

Most line items, including AGI, from your tax return

Current tax year and prior three years

Usually works for mortgages, financial aid and student loan lenders; doesn’t show changes made after you filed your original return

Tax account transcript

Basic data such as return type, marital status, AGI, taxable income and payment type

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)

Can be used to confirm estimated tax payments were applied; also shows changes made after you filed your original return

Record of account transcript

Combines the tax return transcript and the tax account transcript

Current tax year and prior three years

Wage and income transcript

Shows data from your W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and IRA contribution information

Current tax year and up to 10 prior years (if requesting online or with Form 4506-T)

Current tax year information may not be up until July

Verification of non-filing letter

Proof that the IRS has no record of a 1040 for a particular year

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 does not indicate whether you were required to file a return for that given year. It is available after June 15 for current tax year.

How do I get my IRS tax transcript for free?

There are three ways to request an IRS transcript.

1. How to get an IRS transcript online

Requesting an IRS transcript online is likely the fastest way to get a tax transcript. Here's how to do it.

  • 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.

2. 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.

3. How to get an IRS transcript by mail

Here's how to request a copy of your 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.

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.

Find the tax relief company that's best for you

We've weighed the pros and cons of some major players in the space.

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Services

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Fees

  • Free initial consultation.

  • $495 discovery fees.

  • $1,500-$4,000 resolution fees (on average; depends on case specifics).

Services

  • Dedicated case manager.

  • Phone, email, mail and online portal.

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Fees

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Services

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  • Phone, email, mail and online portal.

  • Refunds possible but somewhat limited.

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