What Taxpayers Should Know About Tax Return Copies and Transcripts

From the IRS | IRS Tax Tip 2018-90 | June 12, 2018

The IRS recommends that taxpayers keep a copy of tax returns for at least three years. Doing so can help taxpayers prepare future tax returns or even assist with amending a prior year’s return. If a taxpayer is unable to locate copies of previous year tax returns, they should check with their software provider or tax preparer first. Tax returns are available from IRS for a fee.

Even though taxpayers may have a copy of their tax return, some taxpayers need a transcript. These are often necessary for a mortgage or college financial aid application.

Here is some information about copies of tax returns and transcripts that can help taxpayers know when and how to get them:

Transcripts

To get a transcript, taxpayers can:

Transcripts are free and available for the current tax year and the past three years. A transcript usually displays most line items from the tax return. This includes marital status, the type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income. It also includes items from any related forms and schedules filed. It doesn’t reflect any changes the taxpayer or the IRS may have made to the original return.

Taxpayers needing a transcript should remember to plan ahead. Delivery times for online and phone orders typically take five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives the request. Taxpayers should allow 30 days to receive a transcript ordered by mail, and 75 days for copies of your tax return.

Copies of tax returns

Taxpayers who need an actual copy of a tax return can get one for the current tax year and as far back as six years. The fee per copy is $50. A taxpayer will complete and mail Form 4506 to request a copy of a tax return. They should mail the request to the appropriate IRS office listed on the form.

Taxpayers who live in a federally declared disaster area can get a free copy of their tax return. More disaster relief information is available on IRS.gov.