There are several instances when you may need to reference prior tax returns. These include applying for a mortgage, taking out a loan to start a business or dealing with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit. If you haven't been keeping those records or you've lost them due to a fire or recent move, there are avenues you can use to find previous tax returns. Unless you're young, however, you may not be able to obtain a complete tax history.
How Long to Keep Records?
It's important to note that the IRS recommends all taxpayers keep accurate records for a minimum of the past three years. This number increases to seven years if a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction has been claimed. In the event that you've never filed a tax return, the IRS states that you need to keep your records forever.
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Most individuals will not need a complete tax history, although they may still want one for their own personal knowledge.
Check Your Home Office
Wondering, "How to find my tax return from last year?" The first place to start gathering your most recent tax returns is in your home office. Sort through your filing cabinet, and if you can't find the copies you're looking for, move on to your computer. If you've downloaded software to prepare your taxes, like H&R Block, you may still have a digital copy of your taxes stored on the computer that you can print out for your records.
It may also be beneficial to check your garage or attic if you tend to move older files to storage rather than shred and toss them.
Consider Also: Are Office Supplies Tax Deductible?
Order Online or by Phone
The IRS allows taxpayers to request transcripts of their previous tax documents by either calling 800-908-9946 and following the automated prompts or using the online "Get Transcript" tool. Records accessed through either of these methods are available at no cost. You can request any of the following documents:
- Tax Return Transcript
- Tax Account Transcript
- Record of Account Transcript
- Wage and Income Transcript
- Verification of Non-Filing Letter
Order by Mail
You can order both transcripts and actual tax returns by mail. It is important to note that transcripts are provided at no cost, however, a copy of a previous tax return costs $50. That means if you request a copy of your tax returns for the last six years, you'll have to pay $300. Use Form 4506 to do this and make sure you indicate the ending dates of the tax years you are trying to obtain copies for.
For transcripts, you'll use either Form 4506-T-EZ (just for tax returns) or Form 4506-T (for any of the transcripts mentioned above). Each allows you to request up to four transcripts at a time.
Contact Your Tax Preparer
If you've been using the same tax preparer for years, there's a chance he or she may still have copies of your tax return history. The tax preparer can either print the copies for you or send the documents via email. Tax preparation services that are hosted online also offer the ability to access previous returns.
For example, once you log in to TurboTax, all you have to do is click "Your Tax Returns & Documents" and then select the specific document. You can either download the return to print later or skip the download and go right to print.
Consider Also: Tax Return Preparation: Tax Services, Tax Help & More