How to get your tax records from the IRS

People may need to get their records from the IRS for many reasons.  One reason is that by obtaining your wage and income transcript, you can make sure that all of your income has been included on your tax return.  Normally the wage and income transcript doesn’t become available until sometime in May.  Consequently, you should file an extension when waiting to obtain your wage and income transcript to prepare your taxes.

People also need to get records from the IRS if they misplace their tax returns.  If you have lost your tax returns, you can request a tax return transcript or request an actual copy of your return.

A return transcript shows most line items from your tax return just as you filed it.  It also includes any forms and schedules you filed with your return.  However, it does not reflect changes made to the return after you filed it.

A tax account transcript shows any adjustments made by you or the IRS after you filed your return.  It shows basic tax return data, like marital status, type of return, adjusted gross income and taxable income, and other transactions such as payments you made.

If you are applying for a mortgage, most mortgage companies require a tax return transcript and participate in the IRS’s Income Verification Express Service program.  If you are applying for financial aid, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA website to import your tax return information to your financial aid application.  In both of these cases, you won’t have to request a transcript directly from the IRS.

If you need an actual copy of your tax return, they are generally available for the current tax year and as far back as six years.  The fee per copy is $50.  Complete and mail Form 4506 to request a copy of your tax return.  Mail your request to the IRS office listed on the form for your area.

Delivery times for online and phone orders typically take five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives the request.  You should allow 30 days to receive a transcript ordered by mail and 75 days for copies of your tax return.

The fastest way to get a Tax Return or Account transcript is through the Get Transcript tool available on  Get Transcript allows you to order your transcript online and receive it by mail. 

To order your tax return transcript by mail, complete and mail either Form 4506-T or Form 4506T-EZ.  Form 4506-T can also be used to request other tax records: tax account transcript, record of account, wage and income, and verification of non-filing.

You can also order transcripts by phone at 800-908-9946.

David Zubler is a tax accountant in East Tennessee, the author of four books, and a philanthropist.  All of his proceeds from the books go to a charitable foundation he created for underprivileged children.  He is also the founder of Your Tax Care which provides tax education. David can be reached for questions and consultation at