A IRS Transcript summarizes tax information that was reported to the IRS. Transcripts are often necessary when applying for home mortgages or college financial aid. They may also be needed if one want to file an “old” tax return and have lost or misplaced their original documents (i.e. W2s, 1099-MISC, 1099-DIV, 1099-INT, etc). They are also used when a person has tax debt and needs to perform analysis to determine their CSED.
The IRS offers the following transcript types to taxpayers at no charge (with the exception of an actual copy of your return noted at the bottom of this post):
- Tax Return Transcript – This transcript (see example) shows most line items including the adjusted gross income (AGI) from your original tax return along with any forms and schedules. It doesn’t show changes made after you filed your original return. This transcript is only available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years. A tax return transcript usually meets the needs of lending institutions offering mortgages and student loans.
- Tax Account Transcript – This transcript (see example) shows basic data such as return type, marital status, adjusted gross income, taxable income and all payment types. It also shows changes made after you filed your original return. This transcript is available for the current tax year and up to 10 prior years. When using the IRS Get Transcript by Mail or phone, you’re limited to the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years. If you made estimated tax payments and/or applied an overpayment from a prior year return, you can request this transcript type a few weeks after the beginning of the calendar year to confirm your payments prior to filing your tax return.
- Record of Account Transcript – This transcript combines the tax return and tax account transcripts above into one complete transcript. This transcript is available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years.
- Wage and Income Transcript – This transcript (see example) shows data from information returns the IRS received such as Forms W-2, 1099, 1098 and Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information. Current tax year information may not be complete until July following the tax year in question (e.g. July 2020 for tax year 2019). This transcript is available for up to 10 prior years.
- Verification of Non-filing Letter – This provides proof that the IRS has no record of a filed Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ for the year that is requested. It doesn’t indicate whether a taxpayer was required to file a return for that year. This letter is available after June 15 for the current tax year or anytime for the prior three tax years. One must use Form 4506-T if they need a letter for tax years older than the prior three years.
A transcript can show return and/or account data as well as changes or transactions made after a taxpayer filed their original return. This is done via three digit transaction codes that are used to identify a transaction being processed and to maintain a history of actions posted to a taxpayer’s account. For a cheat sheet of IRS transaction codes used on transcripts see Document 11734 – Transaction Code Pocket Guide.
How to Get Transcripts
Once a person registers, they can use the IRS’ Get Transcript Online tool to view, print, or download all the transcript types listed above. If you’re unable to register or you prefer not to use Get Transcript Online, you may order a tax return transcript and/or a tax account transcript using Get Transcript by Mail or call 800-908-9946. One should allow 5 to 10 calendar days for delivery.
A person may also request any of the above transcripts by faxing/mailing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return as instructed on the form.
Copy of “Actual” Tax Return
A transcript isn’t a photocopy of your return. If you need a copy of your original return, complete and mail Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. There is a $50 fee for each return requested. Full payment must be included with your request or it will be rejected. Make your check or money order payable to “United States Treasury.”