Sunday, January 11, 2015

Need a Copy of an Old Tax Return?

Several years ago, I did some editorial work for a company in California, a state with its own income tax. I filed my Federal Tax return for that year, but since I live in Florida I didn’t see the need to file a California tax return.

Fast forward four years …

The California Department of Revenue sends a letter claiming I owed state income taxes, plus interest, plus penalties.

After an absurd number of frustrating letters, phone calls, and faxes, I got to speak with someone who said if I would send her a copy of my 1040 Form that showed I lived in Florida the year in question, I would be off the hook.

Fortunately, I had a copy of that tax return, which by now was 10 years old. I faxed it — situation resolved.

All that got me thinking: Suppose I wasn’t such a packrat and didn’t keep old records, what could I have done?

It turns out the IRS will send you your past tax returns, also referred to as transcripts. Just click here. IRS transcripts are often used to validate income and tax filing status for mortgage applications, student and small business loan applications, and during tax preparation.

Of course, the IRS doesn’t have the backup information you may have used when preparing your return. But at least you now know that you can download and print an old return immediately or request it be mailed to your address on record.

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