“If you can fool the IRS, I might as well let you fool me.”
Whenever you borrow lots of money, enter a new lease, or possibly need a general credit check, someone is likely to ask you for your tax return for previous years. Why? Because tax returns for past years offer a wealth of information on what your income has been, what assets you’ve owned, and how stable your job history is.
And in other cases, you’ll want those returns to help you file past year tax returns. When you file a past year tax return, you’ll need to use information from previous and subsequent years to fill in the gaps. Filing a past year’s tax returns is tedious (which is why there are more sites out there that file for you than that tell you how to file past years tax returns).
So how to you get those older forms? It depends on what you actually need! In most cases, you don’t need to literally get past tax returns — what you actually need is the information you entered. Sadly, just sticking with your best recollection would defeat the purpose.
The IRS offers a simple solution: a “transcript” of your return, which has the numbers you sent them, but isn’t a copy of the actual form. In other words, they guarantee that the information is correct, but the document might have looked different.
You can also request a copy of the document itself (though there aren’t any normal circumstances in which this is necessary). The IRS charges an extra fee for the inconvenience of digging up the actual document, as opposed to printing out information from their database.
If you need more information how to get past tax returns, the best plan is to look at a tax preparation site that specializes in past year returns. They’ll be able to tell you which returns you’ll need, and whether you need a copy or a transcript. And if you happen to have any other tax issues you need resolved — you’re already most of the way there!
Photo via h.koppdelaney on Flickr.