Need to Know: Getting a Copy of a Prior Year Tax Return or Transcript

Robin Weingast Tax ReturnKeeping copies of your tax returns is a smart habit. In addition to needing them for any questions the IRS may have, you will most likely need tax returns to apply for a home mortgage or if you and/or a dependent apply for a student loan. If you haven’t kept copies, the IRS can help you get a copy of a return or even a transcript of other tax information you might need.

What is a tax transcript?

There are two kinds of tax transcripts:

1. A tax return transcript shows most line items from your originally submitted return s well as accompanying forms and schedules you may have filed. It does not include any changes made after filing
2. A tax account transcript shows any changes that you or the IRS made to your return after filing. This transcript includes marital status, return type, adjusted gross income, and taxable income.
It’s important to understand that these are not actual copies of your filed, processed tax returns.

How can I get transcripts from prior years?

Getting transcripts is free, and you can get them for the current year and past three years. You can order transcripts:

Online at, using the “Order a Transcript” option (link: Order a Transcript tool)
• By phone at 800-908-9946, using their menu options
• By mail, by completing a Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript. Businesses and individuals who need a tax account transcript should use Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. The forms are available online, or by calling 800-TAX-FORM

What if I need a copy of my processed, filed tax return?

For a fee* ($57 per copy), you can obtain a processed, filed tax return. Simply complete Form 4506 and mail it to the address listed for your area.

In general, you can obtain a current year’s return as well as returns from the past six years, but these requests may take up to 60 days to fulfill.

*If you live in a Presidentially declared disaster area, the IRS may waive the fee to obtain copies of your tax returns. Visit and select the ‘Disaster Relief’ link in the lower left corner of the page for more about IRS disaster assistance.

For more information

If you’d like to understand this process step-by-step, you can watch the video How to Request a Copy of Your Tax Return.

Have more questions?

The Robin Weingast team is well versed in the many resources that are available to business owners and individuals. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

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