How to Open Previous Tax Returns in TurboTax

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You might need a copy of a previous year's tax return for any number of reasons, from applying for a loan to qualifying for certain benefits during national times of trouble. You can get one for free if you used Intuit TurboTax to prepare your return for the year in question, and it won't be just a bare-bones copy of the document, either. TurboTax will obligingly include any schedules that you also filed, as well as the worksheets that you used to arrive at the numbers you reported.

TurboTax is available in both desktop and online versions, and TurboTax past returns can be accessed a little differently depending on which you used to prepare your tax return.

If You Used the CD or Downloaded Version

Your tax return is stored on your computer if you purchased the TurboTax CD or downloaded the program from the internet. It's a tax data or .tax file, so you can only open it in the TurboTax software. Hopefully, that's still installed on your computer, and you can print a copy of the return out from there.

If You Prepared Your Taxes Online

You'll have to use your TurboTax login if you used the online version of the product. Make sure you sign in to the same account you used to prepare your return. From there, it's a simple matter of clicking on the "Documents" tab, then on the tax year you want, then finally on "Download PDF."

TurboTax suggests using the "Account Recovery" tool if you can't find the return you're looking for. It's possible that you're not signed in under the same account you used to prepare it.

If All Else Fails, Contact the IRS

Of course, the IRS has copies of your tax returns as well, so you can reach out to the agency if your computer or tablet has since crashed or you can't retrieve your return from TurboTax online for some reason. Unfortunately, you'll have to pay for it, and you'll have to wait a while to get your hands on it.

You can make your request by snail-mailing Form 4506 to the IRS along with your payment. You can download the form from the IRS website. You must include your spouse's name and Social Security number on the form if you filed a joint married return, but your spouse doesn't also have to sign the form.

The fee is $50 for each return as of 2020. The IRS indicates that you'll have to wait about 75 days for processing. ­It keeps returns for seven years.

IRS Transcripts Are Free

Your other option is to order a tax transcript from the IRS rather than an actual copy of your return. The IRS makes two types of transcripts available: a tax return transcript and a tax account transcript, and both are free. A transcript is more or less a summary of the information included in your return and your payment and refund histories.

Mail in Form 4506T-EZ if you want a tax return transcript, or Form 4506T if you want a tax account transcript. You can also request a transcript online from the "Get Transcript Online" page of the IRS website, or even call the agency, although the IRS isn't taking phone calls in spring 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It will take from five to 30 days to get the transcript, depending on whether you make the request online or via USPS mail, and they're only available for four years – the current year and the previous three.

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