How To Get a Copy of Your Federal Tax Return

When I lost my data last week, I was a little freaked out over having lost our tax returns, since I had neglected to print out a hard copy.

I’ve always admired those folks who have paper-free offices and would love to cut down on my paper collection. Unfortunately,  I always seem to get myself in trouble when I try to go paperless. That’s probably because there’s a right and a wrong way to do it… maybe I should research exactly how to go about it sometime. Apparently careful backups are part of the process. Ahem.

During those dark hours while kicking myself soundly I talked to my sister, who assured me that I could get a copy of our income tax return from the IRS.

So I went to the Internal Revenue website and found out there are three ways to get a copy.

First, you may order a transcript of your return, which is completely free. This transcript contains all of the lines of the return which you used.  For my situation this should be enough to recreate the return within my stand alone H & R Block Tax Software.

  1. Obtain a free transcript by calling 800-829-1040 or fill out and mail in Request for Transcript of Tax Return Form 4506-T
  2. Once the IRS receives your request, it will take about fifteen days to receive the transcript

The second way will cost you a pretty penny but will provide you with a duplicate of your return, including any attachments (such as your W2 or 1099).  In most cases, if all you need is a copy of your W2, it may be less expensive to contact the business or person who gave you the W2 or 1099, rather than to ask the IRS to spend time making copies for you. If you do determine that you need an exact copy of your return, follow these steps.

  1. Fill out and mail in Request for Copy of Tax Return Form 4506
  2. It will take up to 60 days to complete your request
  3. As of today’s date, it will cost you $57.00

The third method is a Short Form Request for Individual Tax ReturnThis form was created to help folks who need to have a transcript for mortgage purposes (obtain, modify or re-finance), and/or would like to have their transcripts mailed to a third party.

Since Mr. A is self-employed, I feel it is important to have a hard copy of our tax return, so I have requested the transcript. The IRS agent I spoke with assured me that every line which I used in my return will be included, so with that I can re-enter the data into H & R Block.

I will then be able to print out that hard copy, and this will also enable the program to pull the information for next year’s return.  I know some will advise me to use the online version of H & R Block, but I am not keen on using online versions of programs when a stand alone product is available. For what it’s worth, I did also contact H & R Block to see if they by any chance retain a copy of the return on their servers (since I used their e-file option) and they do not.

On an aside, I also noticed that when a joint return is filed, only one taxpayer’s signature is required to request the free transcript.  If you are in a situation where your spouse will not allow you to see the tax return (which would be weird, since you are supposed to sign the thing, and you should review anything you sign your name to), you can request a copy by yourself.

One more concern on the backup accident in the process of being resolved.

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