Ever go looking for a copy of an old tax return and can't find it? This happens frequently. How?
- People move quite a bit. Then you know what happens. The tax returns get put in a box that…well, you just can't seem to find.
- People pass away. A parent passes away and one of their children needs to pick up the pieces and complete the estate and probate filings. The individual tax returns, that hopefully were filed, are nowhere to be found.
What should you do?
The easiest thing to do is complete IRS Form 4506—Request for Copy of Tax Return. Along with this you will need to send in a check for $57 for each year requested. The good news is if there is no copy of the return on file, the IRS will send you the check back. The bad news is that there may have been a non-filing of returns for several years. This can happen with elderly taxpayers who forget to file. We have even had situations where the taxpayer filed the federal return but not the state income tax return. State income tax returns require a different request form.
The issue with Form 4506, in addition to the cost, is the delay in getting a response. According to the instructions to the form, it indicates it will take at least 60 days. Our experience is that it takes much longer.
What if you can't wait that long?
Complete IRS Form 4506-T—Request for Transcript of Tax Return. There are two benefits to using this form. First, there is no cost associated with this form. Second, the response can be as little as ten business days.
What's the downside to just requesting the transcript?
The transcript is not a tax return. It's just a summary of the various items of income and some third party reporting, i.e. mortgages, that have been reported. These forms, however, can be somewhat challenging to read.
ACTION ITEM: People that need a copy of an old tax return that are not under a big time constraint should complete IRS Form 4506. If you need information quickly, complete IRS Form 4506-T and get just the transcript.
Thomas F. Scanlon, CPA, CFP®