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How to Get an IRS Transcript or Copy of Your Tax Return

An IRS transcript is a summary or overview of your tax return information. There are five types. Here's how they work and how to get one.
Aug. 12, 2019
Income Taxes, Personal Taxes, Taxes
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If you need to see your past tax information, there’s a way to get it from the IRS by requesting an IRS transcript.

What is an IRS transcript?

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

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.

One important note: IRS tax transcripts are not photocopies of your actual tax return with all the forms and attachments. If that’s what you want, you’ll need to complete IRS Form 4506 and mail it to the IRS. There’s a $50 fee for that (unless you live in a federally declared disaster area), and it can take up to 75 days to process.

Types of IRS transcripts

Here’s the breakdown.

IRS transcript typeWhat it containsHow far back you can goNotes
Tax return transcriptMost line items, including AGI, from your tax returnCurrent tax year and prior three yearsUsually works for mortgages, financial aid and student loan lenders; doesn’t show changes made after you filed your original return
Tax account transcriptBasic data such as return type, marital status, AGI, taxable income and payment typeCurrent 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 Combines the tax return transcript and the tax account transcriptCurrent tax year and prior three years
Wage and income transcriptShows data from your W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and IRA contribution informationCurrent 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 letterProof that the IRS has no record of a 1040 for a particular yearCurrent 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 to get an IRS transcript

There are three ways to request an IRS transcript.

Online

  • 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. If you have a credit security freeze with Experian, you’ll need to lift it to verify your identity.
  • If you want the transcript mailed to you (“Get Transcript by Mail”), you’ll need your Social Security number, Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) or 10-digit customer file number from a lender, as well as your date of birth and mailing address. Orders typically take 5 to 10 days to process. Note that only the Record of Account and Tax Return transcripts are receivable by mail.

Phone

  • Call 800-908-9946.
  • The transcript will be sent to you in the mail.
  • Orders typically take 5 to 10 days to process.

Paper

Other ways to get your 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.

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