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Easy Guide to Ordering a Copy of Your Tax Return Details

While it’s important to file taxes correctly and on time, there are times when you’ll need access to a legitimate transcript or copy of your tax return information, such as when you apply for a loan, mortgage or visa and in cases where your prior tax records have been destroyed in a fire, flood or other natural disaster.

To make it easy for you, this guide will explain the simple steps to take when requesting a transcript or copy of your income tax return from the IRS.

Types of Tax Transcripts

There are two types of transcripts you can request – a Tax Return or a Tax Account. Both are generally available for the current and past three years.

Tax return transcripts will show most items from the original tax return that you filed, such as Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ plus any forms and schedules that went with them. Generally, it will include all the information a lender or government agency would ask you for. It will not show any changes you, your representative or the IRS made after you filed, so if you need to provide the transcript to a financial institution, ask them whether the tax return version will meet their requirements (although in most cases it will).

Tax account transcripts will show the basic information from your original return, such as your marital status, the type of return you filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income. It will also include any adjustments you or the IRS made after you filed your return.

Ordering Your Transcript

The IRS has an easy ‘Order A Transcript’ application on its website – you can either use this online tool to file your request or call them direct. The IRS will then mail the transcript of your tax return to the address currently on file for you, so before you do anything, make sure they have your current details.

The IRS online tool will allow you to check whether your details are correct and amend them if needed, such as your Social Security Number (or a individual taxpayer identification number provided by the IRS), Street address and Zip Code.

The IRS can’t process your request online if you need transcripts mailed to an address other than the one they have on file for you. To have your transcript sent to a different address, you’ll need to complete and send Form 4506-T, which you can download at the IRS website or have mailed to you by calling a dedicated number. They also have a new Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcripts called Form 4506T-EZ for those who have relatively simpler needs.

To order your transcript(s), visit www.IRS.gov and click on ‘Individuals’ at the top left of the page. Then simply click on ‘Need a Copy of Your Tax Return Information?’. This page offers a direct link to the ‘Order A Transcript’ tool which will take you through the steps online. Alternatively, it also has a link to Form 4506-T which you can print, plus the 1-800 number to call so they can mail the form to you.

If you need both a tax return and tax account transcript, you will only be able to order one at a time – this means once you’ve finished ordering the first, you’ll need to go back into the Order A Transcript tool to order the second type from the beginning.

The IRS will send your transcript within 5 to 10 days from the time they receive your signed request. They do not charge a fee for this.

Ordering a Copy of Your Tax Return

If you need an exact copy of a previously filed and processed tax return along with all attachments (including Form W-2), you will need to complete Form 4506 (PDF), Request for Copy of Tax Return. It can be found at this page: http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=232219,00.html.

Simply fill out the form, sign it and mail it to the correct address. While transcripts are generally free, a full copy will incur a $57.00 fee for each tax year request. This is payable via money order or check (which you’ll mail with the form).

Copies are generally available for returns filed in the current year and for the previous six years. If you’re married, copies of jointly filed tax returns can be requested by either spouse and only one signature is required.

You can expect it to take 60 calendar days to receive your copies. Be sure to make your own additional copies, as the IRS asks people not to make further requests.


The fact that getting a transcript or copy of your tax return can play a vital role in such necessities as being accepted for a loan or mortgage shows how important it is to get the information correct when you file taxes. If you get that right, the IRS website makes it relatively simple to request the information you need.

About the Author: Bob Goren is an independent advisor on how to file taxes in the US.


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