How Do I Obtain Past Tax Returns?

If you’re getting ready to file taxes for this year, one of the most helpful things you can do is have a copy of your old tax records on hand while you’re filing. Not only can it save you time doing your taxes this year, but it can also save you money throughout the year. Prior tax information is one of the best ways to show a proven financial track record, and banks and other lenders treat them very seriously. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to throw them away or never save them to begin with.

So what if you’re lost those old returns?  return4refund How can you obtain past tax returns years after you filed them?

The first thing to do is to know what part of the back taxes returns you absolutely need. While it’s helpful to have all of the return, sometimes you may only need a part of it, such as the W2 or the amount of refund received. How you obtain your past tax returns depends on what you need, so make sure to consider what you’re looking for. If you want help with filing, you may only need your refund amount (possibly obtained from bank records). If you want to use tax information as a way to get discounts, you’ll need the whole return.

No matter what part of the return you’re looking for, you can contact the IRS and ask for it. They should have any old return on record and to obtain past tax returns all you need is the time to wait for them to send it to you. Unfortunately, due to backlog, this can take weeks, even months. If you don’t have the time to wait around, there are alternative means. For example, if you only need your W2 talk to your employer (or former employer) as they have to keep it on file for 3 years.

The easiest way to obtain past tax returns is if you e-filed your past taxes. With a single email to customer service, you should be able to get the whole return, free of charge. Most tax sites store the information on huge off-site servers, so provided you can still confirm the account, all you need to obtain past tax returns is a working email address. And if you use the same service year after year, your past tax information may be automatically stored in your account.

Of course, the best way to obtain past tax returns is to save them in the first place. If you file by hand, be sure and make a copy. And if you’re filing online, be sure and save a PDF and store it securely (or even print it out). Old tax returns are very useful and should be considered an essential part of any taxpayer’s financial toolkit.

Zoe Holmes is a New York-based Midwesterner. She used to have to obtain past tax returns, but recently started saving them and keeping them on file.

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