I recently had to request a copy of my tax return when closing on my home (lenders required it) and when filing some INS papers. I had thought that this would be a hassle given that the requesting parties wanted an official transcript (not a H&R Block or Turbo-tax copy). However it was actually a very simple and free process, that all tax payers can take advantage of. There are however a few things I learnt which can make the whole process a bit smoother. Firstly though it is important to understand what a tax transcript actually is and what is contains.
A tax return transcript shows most line items from your tax return (Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. It does not reflect any changes you, your representative or the IRS made after the return was filed (e.g amendments) nor does it include any attachments (like W-2’s) that were submitted with your tax return. In most cases, a tax return transcript will meet the requirements of lending institutions such as those offering mortgages and for applying for student loans. It also meets the requirements for proving your income and residency with the INS and other government agencies.
If you do want details on any later adjustments either you or the IRS made after the tax return was filed, you should then request a tax account transcript. This transcript shows basic data, including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income.
Individuals can request free copies of their federal tax return information– tax return transcripts and tax account transcripts– by phone (1-800-829-1040) or order by mail using IRS Form 4506T (Request for Transcript of Tax Return). I recommend calling the toll-free number because it is faster overall and because you are talking to a real person you can avoid making any obvious mistakes. All they will ask you is your SSN, DOB and address. Allow two to three weeks for delivery with either channel. If you haven’t received after this period then call the IRS number above because it probably means your request was lost or incorrectly processed.
You can also designate a third party (like your bank) to receive the tax transcripts. However be very careful with this and only send it to a credible institution that formally requests tax related information.
When filling in form 4506T, keep the following key items in mind:
– You can request up to four years of tax data in the one form
– Make sure you include all the past addresses related to the tax returns you are requesting. I had to resubmit a form because I had forgotten to include one of my past addresses
– If you are unsure, most people would select form 1040 in item 6 and check option A, since this is the most common form for individual tax submissions
– If you need a copy of Form W-2 or Form 1099, you should first contact the payer (e.g. your employer) rather than the IRS. This is because the IRS will charge you a fee for copies of any attachments or forms you submitted with your complete tax return.
– Read all the instructions provided with the form to ensure you are filling it in correctly. If in doubt, go through the above toll free number to request the form (but be prepared to stay on hold for a while!)
You can request a tax return transcript at any time and it is not a bad idea to get it once a year for your records, particularly if you have misplaced past copies. If you are planning to buying a home and get a mortgage in the near future then I recommend submitting this form early on, in order to get the required transcripts ahead of time.
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