Reconstructing Tax Records
Reconstructing Tax Records
Life’s unexpected twists and turns can sometimes lead to the loss or destruction of crucial tax records. In this guide, we’ll provide you with valuable insights on how you can request copies of previously filed tax returns.
Please note for the 2022 tax year due to the winter storms, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the state’s tax agency, the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), are waiving the usual fees when requesting copies of previously-filed tax returns for tax filers residing in counties declared as disaster areas.
General Guidelines Around Missing Tax Records
If you are filing, it is always helpful to have a copy of a previous year’s tax return to serve as a reference point when filing for the current tax year. If you file in person or virtually with the help of a tax preparer, ask for two copies of your tax return or see if you can receive an additional digital copy to have for your records. If you self-file, you can print a copy of your return for your records, and also save a PDF digital copy in a secure digital location for your records.
If you have lost the copy of your previous year’s tax return, the first step should be to revisit the filing method you used to file your taxes to request a copy of your tax return.
If you self-filed, you can log in back to the software and print or save a PDF copy of your tax return for future reference. If you visited a VITA site or went to a paid tax preparer, ask first to see if they can provide you with a copy of your tax return. When filing, make sure to always ask your tax preparer if you can request free copies of previous year tax returns, and what the time limitations are to request them in case you lose your copy. Depending on how much time has passed since you filed, they may no longer have access to a copy of your tax return.
Please note that a tax return copy is different from a tax return transcript. Tax return transcripts are available for free, and contain the most important line items from your return. A replacement copy of the tax return will have all information and forms submitted with the original return.
Requesting a Tax Transcript
You may request an Account Transcript for free any time from both the IRS and the FTB for any tax year. An Account Transcript will show income sources and the amounts earned. It will not look exactly the same as a copy of your original tax return.
If you need help creating an IRS online account to view these records, check out our step-by-step video tutorial here.
Requesting an Original Copy of Your Tax Return
If you prefer an original copy of your tax return, there is normally a fee associated whether you request this through the IRS or FTB.
The FTB charges a $20.00 fee for each tax year tax return; there is no charge from the FTB for a copy of your return if you’re requesting a return for a tax year in which you reside in a designated California state disaster or federal disaster.
2023 Disaster Relief
At the federal level typically, there is a $50 fee for each copy of a tax return, but this fee is waived for disaster-affected taxpayers. At the state level in California, there is a $20.00 fee for each tax return year you request. There is no charge for a copy of your return if you’re requesting a return for a tax year in which you reside in a designated California state disaster or federal disaster.
For copies of previously-filed federal returns, taxpayers should put the assigned Disaster Designation, “California, severe winter storms, flooding, and mudslides,” in bold letters at the top of Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, as appropriate, and submit it to the IRS. For copies of previously-filed state returns, taxpayers should use form FTB 3516 and write the name of the disaster in blue or black ink at the top of the request. The IRS and FTB have yet to issue guidance regarding when disaster relief replacement returns will no longer be offered for no cost. We recommend requesting a replacement as soon as possible if one is needed.
To learn more about requesting a copy of a previous tax return if you live in a disaster area at the federal level, click here. To learn more about requesting a copy of a previous tax return if you live in a disaster area in California, click here.