You may need copies of your filed tax returns for many reasons. For example, they can help you prepare future returns. You'll need them if you have to amend a prior year tax return. You often need them when you apply for a loan to buy a home or to start a business. You may need them if you apply for student aid.

If you can't find your copies, the IRS can give you a transcript of the information you need, or a copy of your tax return. Here's how to get your Federal tax-return information from the IRS.

There are two easy and convenient options for obtaining free copies of your Federal tax-return information: tax transcripts and tax-account transcripts.

The IRS does not charge a fee for transcripts, which are available for the current year as well as the past three years.

A tax-return transcript shows most line items from your tax return as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. It does not reflect any changes you or the IRS made after the return was filed. In many cases, a return transcript will meet the requirements of lending institutions, such as those offering mortgages and student loans.

A tax-account transcript shows any later adjustments either you or the IRS made after the tax return was filed. This transcript shows basic data, including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income.

You can also get your free transcripts immediately online. You can also get them by phone or by mail. To view and print your transcripts online, go to and use the Get Transcript tool.

To request either transcript by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts in the recorded message.

To request a tax-return transcript through the mail, individual taxpayers should complete IRS Form 4506T-EZ, "Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript."

You should receive your tax-return transcript within 10 working days from the time the IRS receives your request. Allow 30 calendar days for delivery of a tax-account transcript.

If you still need an actual copy of a previously processed tax return, it will cost $50 per tax year and take much longer. Complete Form 4506, "Request for Copy of Tax Form," and mail it to the IRS address for your area. Allow 60 days for actual copies of your return. Copies are generally available for the current year as well as the past six years.

If you are a taxpayer affected by a Federally-declared disaster, the IRS waives the usual fees and expedites requests for copies of tax returns for people who need them to apply for benefits or to file amended returns claiming disaster-related losses. Visit for more disaster-relief information.

There are many reasons why you may need to get a copy of a past tax return. Luckily, requesting a past return is simple enough for any taxpayer to do.

Barry Lisak is an IRS Enrolled Agent, meaning that he has passed special U.S. Treasury Department exams that qualify him to represent clients dealing with audits or tax-resolution cases. Any questions can be directed to him at (516) TAX-SAVE, or

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