How to Recover a Lost Tax Return

Tax returns continue to be useful documents even after you file your taxes. You need a copy of your tax return for a variety of situations in which you must verify your income, including applying for a mortgage or a student loan. If you misplace a tax return or it is damaged, you need to replace it. The Internal Revenue Service offers two options. You can order a computer printout of either a tax return transcript or a tax account transcript, both of which are free, or order a photocopy of the actual return for a fee.

Step 1

Request a tax return transcript or tax account transcript by going to the IRS website or by calling the IRS at 800-908-9946. A tax return transcript includes most of the information on your return. A tax account transcript adds changes made after you initially filed your return. If you order online, click on "Online Services" on the IRS home page and then on "Order a Transcript." Follow the prompts to pick the kind of transcript you want. You will be prompted to enter your name, Social Security number, date of birth, mailing address and the year of the tax return you want. The IRS will mail your tax return transcript in 10 to 30 business days.

Step 2

Order a transcript to be sent directly to a third party such as a mortgage lender. You must submit a paper IRS Form 4506T, Request for Copy of Tax Return or 4506T-EZ. Form 4506T-EZ, which is a short form designed for taxpayers who need transcripts sent to third parties. The IRS requires that you sign and date the physical form to authorize release of your information, which is why you have to send in the form by mail. The 4506T and 4506T-EZ forms can be downloaded from the IRS website. You must provide the same information required for an online request, plus the name and address of the third party who gets the transcript. Mail the request to the address given in the 4506T instructions.

Step 3

Request a photocopy of your original tax return by completing and mailing Form 4506 to the IRS address on the form. Photocopies cost $57 for each tax return year you request. Enclose a check or money order for the total made out to the U.S. Treasury Department. Allow about 90 days for processing and delivery.


  • Transcripts are available for the current tax year and the three previous years. You can get photocopies of the actual tax return for the current tax period plus the previous six years.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

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