Now that most of you have filed your 2017 taxes, few of you want to think about them anymore. But if you had to do go back to them, could you? After all, you occasionally do need some information from a return, so you should keep a copy on hand.
The IRS actually recommends that a taxpayer keeps copies of at least the last three years of tax returns. This obviously gives you a chance to pull information off past returns, but can also help with preparing future returns. These may also be necessary when applying for certain loans or a mortgage. Also, in the unfortunate occurrence of an audit, quick access to your information can help you get ready for it faster.
As a further addendum to that official word, you should keep any documentation that went into preparing the return along with it. Granted, the chances are very, very high that you are never going to need to use those pieces of paper again, but it is much better to hold onto things you likely will not need than to try to get a copy in the rare instances when you do need it. Just put them all in a folder, file it away, and throw them away years down the line. Or, you can also store them digitally for even less clutter.
If you don’t have copies of your tax return, they are possible to get. If you have used any online tax software to prepare them, they are saved there, which can be a fine repository, or you can print a copy if you feel safer with a-hard copy. If you had your return prepared by a professional, they will keep copies of them for a number of years.
For those who did not use either of those avenues, though, transcripts and copies can be obtained from the IRS. The first thing to know about these is that a transcript and a copy aren’t the same thing. A transcript isn’t a full copy of a return, but will include most line items and most likely will contain any information you actually need when you wish you had a copy of your return.
A benefit to the transcript is that it can be obtained for free from the IRS for the current year and the past three years. One can even be requested online through a pretty simple web form. The agency does warn, though, to plan ahead, for it could take 10 days to get a transcript from the time the IRS receives the request, which means up to a 30-day wait for those requested by mail.
If you do need an actual copy of the return, this can also be obtained from the IRS. These do cost money, however, at $50 per return. They are available for the current year and as far back as six years. This requires filling out a form that must be mailed in, and can take up to 75 days to receive.
Overall, just know this is one of those areas where a little bit of diligence in keeping necessary historical records can hold off a lot of future headaches.
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