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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to request a copy of your tax return for past years

Previous year's tax return information can be retrieved from the Internal Revenue Service by performing either  a tax return request or a tax return transcript request. These transcripts can be used for situations that require previous tax year's information such as legal disputes and/or procedures, tax appeals, loan and mortgage applications, government audits, personal records or other needs. In addition to the IRS, other sources of tax previous year's tax information may be located by contacting or searching the last recorded place of documentation for the specific year's tax filing. Possible places to find previous tax filing information are the following:

• Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form 4506 (Tax return request)
• IRS form 4506T (Tax transcript request)
• Court records and/or legal case archives
• E-Filing database records
• Personal records or hardware
• Tax preparation services
• Banking applications and records

Federal tax return copies

Copies of tax returns include a photo-copy of the actual tax filing documents originally filed with the IRS. For example form 1040 and all additional documents such as schedules A, C and D, Form 1099's, etc. These copies can be obtained by sending the IRS a signed and completed from 4506 along with the fee specified on the form. For copies of multiple years' tax filings, up to 8 years can be requested using a single form 4506, however each year's copy is charged a fee. Currently the fee for a copy of a single year's tax return is $57.00 plus postage multiplied by the number of returns requested if any. (IRS.com)

Federal tax return transcripts

If complete tax documentation is not required, all that may be needed is a tax-filing transcript. Some financial institutions and lawyers may only require a tax transcript potentially saving a lot of money as transcripts are free and can also be requested by telephone in addition to by mail. Additionally, tax transcripts can confirm no-tax return was filed for a specific year, tax payment history, and attached document summaries. These transcripts provide summary information of various tax forms as compiled by the IRS. The instructional IRS video below explains how to obtain a free IRS Form 1040 transcript:

State tax return copies

Depending on which state one filed taxes in for a given year, obtaining copies of State tax filing documents are subject to different fees, request procedures and processing times. For example in the State of California, a $20.00 fee is required to request up to 3.5 years of previous tax returns (ftb.ca.gov), however in the State of North Dakota charges no fee for copies of up to 3 years of tax returns and can process the request within 10 days. (nd.gov). To locate specific state tax filing information, visiting state government websites and/or contacting state departments of revenue can be of assistance. The following website provides links to the individual state websites.

In summary, obtaining copies of tax returns is possible either through the Federal or State Government in which the tax documents were filed. Processing times, cost and the extent of years from which tax returns can be obtained varies from State to State. One may be able to obtain complete copies of tax documents from other sources for less money and it may be worth the phone call and search time.

Such alternative sources may include tax preparation service records, court filing archives, old computers and/or lost filing records. Obtaining transcript summaries of tax filing records is more cost effective than requesting completed tax filing copies from the IRS but the time required to receive the transcript(s) may take up to 45 days according to the IRS.


1. http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc156.html
2. http://www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/faq/ivr/615.shtml
3. http://www.nd.gov/tax/indincome/forms/28249.pdf
4. http://www.globalcomputing.com/states.html