Tax returns are part of our "important documents" when it comes to finances. If you want to get a mortgage or loan, you might be required to show copies of them. So, what do you do if you can't find the returns for a particular year? Well, there is no need to stress.
The first thing to understand is the IRS is your friend in this regard. For all the discussion about how to prepare tax returns, it may be surprising to find that the agency doesn't keep the ones you file. Instead, it creates two data documents from them. One is called a tax return transcript and the other is called a tax account transcript. You can get copies of each for this and the previous three years free of charge.
The tax return transcript is the version you want. It is not a copy of your return, but it does show the lines and information entered on each of the corresponding lines of your 1040. Given this, most banks and lenders will accept the transcript as sufficient evidence when considering to loan you money.
So, what then is a tax account transcript? It is the same information, but after any adjustments have been made by you through an amended return or the IRS through an adjustment or audit. The format of this transcript is such that banks don't really accept it for lending purposes. Banks are not the most flexible of businesses.
The fundamentals of ordering your transcripts are pretty simple. To get a transcript for a 1040 filing, you should file Form 4506t-EZ. Business returns and non-1040 tax returns can be obtained by filing Form 450T. The turn around time by the IRS is a very quick ten days after the agency receives your request.
Losing a tax return is not exactly a smart thing, but it does happen from time to time. Fortunately, you can get a copy of the crucial information without much problem.