taxes

Filling in tax record gaps

The IRS says it can take up to 60 days for the agency to find this data and get copies back to you. And don't ask the IRS for a reproduction of your current return that you just filed but forgot to copy. The agency says wait six weeks after filing your return before you ask for a copy.

A complete photocopy of one old tax return will cost you $39. If you request multiple copies for several years on the same Form 4506 (you can ask for up to four), that will be $39 for each tax period sought.

Although costly, this information is the most complete and is what you'll need for lenders or other agencies that demand full tax disclosure. You also can ask, by checking the box at the end of line 6, that the IRS send you certified copies that will meet court or other administrative proceeding requirements.

You may, however, run into some problems if you're seeking copies of really old forms. The IRS apparently follows its recommendations on how long to keep records. The agency cautions that returns filed seven or more years ago may not be available for photocopying. By law, the agency must destroy this older data. But, says the IRS, your tax account information generally is still available for prior years and you can get the data in an alternate format.

Employment data confirmation

Have you misplaced old employment tax information? Forms 4506 and 4506-T can help you get your hands on your old W-2 data.

By paying for a full return copy via Form 4506, you'll also get reproductions of the income substantiation material submitted with the return. But if you simply need the income numbers and not the actual paperwork, a transcript is more cost-effective.

Form 4506-T gives you the option of getting transcript information from any W-2 (wage), 1098 (mortgage interest) or 5498 (IRA contributions) form associated with your tax filing. This information is available in many cases for up to 10 years. In transcript format, however, the data will be for federal payments only. State withholding information is not part of the IRS transcript database. If you need state data, request a full copy and pay the $39 fee.

And don't use this form to get a W-2 copy so that you can file your current tax return. Information for the current year is generally not available until the year after it is filed with the IRS. For example, your W-2 earnings information for 2007, filed by your employer in 2008, will not be available from the IRS until 2009.

To get W-2 data for tax-filing purposes, your best first step is to ask your boss for another copy. If that doesn't work and your tax-filing could be delayed because your employer just won't send you the wage statement, file Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. If you need W-2 information for retirement purposes, contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.

News on not filing

Form 4506-T also can be used to verify that you did not file any tax return.

Bankrate's tax expert George Saenz notes that nonfiling confirmation may be required if you seek assistance from a program with income eligibility limits. This could be the case, for example, in student financial aid applications. IRS corroboration that you did not file a return could help prove that you did not make enough taxable income for Uncle Sam to require a 1040.

Eva Rosenberg, an enrolled agent based in Southern California, cites some other reasons you may want IRS authentication that you didn't file a return:

  1. You know you didn't file and want to make sure that no one else filed in your name.
  2. You know that you didn't need to file and wanted some objective confirmation.
  3. You're not sure if you (or the person whose finances you're managing) filed a return for that year.
  4. You believe you filed and want to verify that IRS did or did not receive it.

Requesting a transcript for the tax year in question (line 6 of Form 4506-T) will get you quick -- and free -- proof of your nonfiling.

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Our tax expert Kay Bell provides resourceful tips and advice to help you stay prepared for filing.

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