Tax Tips: How to get a copy of an old tax return

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You might need a copy of an old tax return for a variety of reasons, including things like applying for a mortgage, getting a divorce, or defending yourself in a lawsuit. While it's always preferable to keep copies of your tax returns that you can access easily, sometimes you just don't have them.

The IRS can easily provide you with your tax information from prior years if you know how to ask for it. There are two different things you can ask for. A tax return transcript will show what was reported on your original tax return. It doesn't look like your tax return, but it has all the relevant information. A tax account transcript will show adjustments or changes that the IRS make to your tax return after the return was filed.

To get either of these for free, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or by filling out and sending in Form 4506T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. It can take several weeks to receive your documents, so be patient.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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