How to Get a Tax Transcript for Free: A Step-by-Step Guide

FT Contributor  | 

A tax transcript is a document that provides an overview of your tax return information. While it’s not a complete copy of your past tax return, it does include most line items you would find on your tax return. Personal information, such as the last four digits of your Social Security number, is usually concealed on tax transcripts, but all your financial information is visible.

You may be asked to provide a copy of your tax transcripts if you apply for a mortgage, loan, or other financial transactions. However, the financial institution you’re working with may need a complete copy of your tax return instead of your tax transcripts. Therefore, it’s important to know the difference so you can provide the potential lender with the proper documents.

How to Request a Tax Transcript

To obtain your free tax transcript, you’ll need to request it directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You have a few different methods you can choose from when requesting your tax transcripts from the IRS, including online, by mail, or by phone.

Request Online

Requesting your tax transcripts online is a simple, convenient, and fast way to obtain these documents. To use this method, you’ll need a computer, an internet connection, and a printer. You’ll also need to set up an online account with the IRS if you don’t have one already. To request your tax transcript,

  • Visit the IRS website’s tax transcript page.
  • Click on “Request Tax Transcript” to be redirected to the login page.
  • Log in to your IRS account or click “Create Account” to create an account with the IRS website.
  • Verify your information and choose to “Request a tax transcript.”
  • Download your tax transcript using a PDF viewing program, such as Adobe Acrobat.
  • Print your tax transcript and save it, if needed.

Your tax transcripts are provided on the website as pop-ups so it’s important to ensure you have your pop-up blocker turned off to view these documents. When you save your tax transcripts on your computer, you can have access to them to reprint whenever you need them.

Request by Mail

If you don’t have access to a printer, you may choose to request your tax transcripts by mail. However, if you’re in a hurry to get these documents, keep in mind requesting them by mail can take longer than requesting online.

You’ll also still need to have access to the internet to complete your request since the request itself is made on the IRS website. To request your IRS tax transcript by mail,

  • Visit the “IRS tax transcripts request by mail” page.
  • Provide the information requested, including your Social Security number, date of birth, street address, and zip code.
  • Click “Continue.”
  • Verify your mailing address and confirm that you’re ordering your free tax transcript.
  • Receive your tax transcripts by mail in five to 10 calendar days.

Request by Phone

You can request a tax transcript from the IRS by phone using the automated phone line if you prefer. The turnaround time on a phone request is the same as if you were to request by mail. To request your IRS tax transcript by phone,

  • Call the IRS automated tax transcript line at 800-908-9946.
  • Follow the prompts to request a tax transcript.
  • Provide information, including your Social Security number, to verify your identity.
  • Verify your mailing address.
  • Receive your tax transcripts by mail in five to 10 calendar days.

What Information Do I Need to Request a Tax Transcript?

The information you need to receive your tax transcript will vary, depending on the method you choose to use. You may need additional information if you’re also setting up a new online account with the IRS when requesting your transcripts.

Generally, the personal information you’ll need to provide to the IRS may include the following:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Date of birth.
  • Filing status.
  • Mailing address.
  • Email address, if you have one.
  • Mobile phone number.

You may be asked to verify your contact information and personal identification information, even if you have an IRS account. Be prepared to verify this information if you plan to request your tax transcript online.

How Far Back Can You Request a Tax Transcript?

Your IRS tax transcripts are only available for the current year and for three years prior online or by mail. If you need an IRS tax transcript for a tax return you filed longer than four years ago, you’ll need to make your request using IRS Form 4506-T. When you mail in this form, your tax returns are mailed out in five to 10 calendar days. However, you’ll also have to add mailing and processing time for your form.

While tax transcripts for returns older than four years aren’t available online or by mail unless your complete Form 4506-T, you may be able to request them by phone. You can attempt to call the IRS’ automated service at 800-908-9946 and order your older transcripts. However, if your information cannot be verified by phone, you’ll be required to complete the form and mail it in.

If you need an IRS tax transcript for a tax return you recently filed, you’ll need to wait until the IRS has processed your tax return. If you filed electronically, the IRS usually takes two to four weeks before a transcript is ready. If you mailed in your tax return, it takes about six weeks before your transcript is available.


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This post was updated November 20, 2019. It was originally published November 20, 2019.