Q&A: Obtaining Copies of Previous Tax Returns

Can I get a new copy of a previously filed tax return?

I have misplaced a copy of my 2007 federal income tax return (Form 1040). Is there any way that I can obtain a copy from the IRS?

You can obtain a copy of a previously filed tax return (and attachments, including Form W-2) by submitting a Form 4506 (“Request for Copy of Tax Return”) to the IRS. You are required to submit a $57 processing fee with your request for each tax year for which you are seeking a copy of your return. Copies are generally available for returns filed in the current and past six years. Copies of jointly filed tax returns may be requested by either spouse and only one signature is required. Allow 60 calendar days to receive your copies.

Most needs for tax return information can be met with a computer print-out of your return information called a “transcript.” For example, many lending agencies consider a transcript to be an acceptable substitute for an exact copy of a tax return. A “tax return transcript” will show most line items contained on the return as it was originally filed.

If you need a statement of your tax account which shows changes that you or the IRS made after the original return was filed, you must request a “tax account transcript.” Both kinds of transcripts are generally available for the current and past three years and are provided free of charge.

The period in which you will receive the transcript varies from within 10 to 30 business days from the time the IRS receives your request for the tax return or tax account transcript. You can obtain a transcript by calling 800 -829 -1040 and following the prompts in the recorded message, or by completing and mailing Form 4506-T (“Request for Transcript of Tax Return”) to the address listed in the instructions. Forms can be downloaded at irs.gov or ordered by calling 800 -829 -3676. Transcripts may also be mailed to a third party if you specify this on Form 4506-T, however, you must sign and date the form giving your consent for the disclosure.

If you are a taxpayer impacted by a federally declared disaster, the IRS will waive the usual fees and expedite requests for copies of tax returns for people who need them to apply for benefits or to file amended returns claiming disaster-related losses.

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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