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How to Get a Copy of Your Tax Return

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in Tax Matters

Taxpayers often need a copy of a previously filed tax return for any number of reasons. Perhaps you are applying for a mortgage loan or you'd like to amend a return. What do you do if you can't find your copy? This post explains your options.

Option 1. Get a written transcript of the return for free.
To receive a free transcript of a previously filed income tax return, call the IRS at 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts in the recorded message to request a written transcript. Or you can complete Form 4506-T and send it to the IRS via good old snail-mail. Form 4506-T is available at the IRS website. You can also order it online here: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=232168,00.html

Take note: this transcript is not a photocopy of the actual return. Rather, it's a streamlined version that simply lists the line items and dollar amounts. According to the IRS, this transcript will show most line items contained on the return as it was originally filed, so it will likely provide what you need to satisfy a lender or to amend a return via Form 1040X.

Option 2. Get the complete photocopy of the return for $57.
If you must have an actual photocopy of the return, you must pay for it. The cost is $57 for each return requested. Submit your request on Form 4506, also available at the IRS website.

Here's a typical example of how to save $171 and get a refund from the IRS:

If you have discovered that you forgot a particular deduction on a previously filed return, you have three years from the original due date to file an amended return on Form 1040X and receive a refund. So, you have until April 15, 2014 to amend your 2010 return due April 15, 2011. You have until April 15, 2013 to amend your 2009 return and April 15, 2012 to amend your 2008 return.

Let's say you just realized that you may have forgotten to include some charitable contributions to one particular charity for each of the last three years. But you can't remember for sure whether this is the case. And you recently moved and can't find your returns for the past three years.

If you request a transcript instead of the full-blown copy, you'll save $171. Sound like a good deal? I think so. Save yourself a nice chunk of change and order the transcript.

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