IRS Tax Return Transcripts

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Mark Kantrowitz

By Mark Kantrowitz

October 29, 2019

Applicants who file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool may need to obtain an IRS Tax Return Transcript if their FAFSA is selected for verification.

It is best to order an IRS Tax Return Transcript in advance, just in case it is needed, to avoid potential delays in obtaining a tax return transcript.

Request the right type of tax transcript

Be sure to request an IRS Tax Return Transcript, not an IRS Tax Account Transcript or Record of Account. The IRS Tax Return Transcript includes more information than an IRS Tax Account Transcript. An IRS Tax Account Transcript might not include all of the information required to complete verification. An IRS Record of Account combines the Tax Return Transcript and Tax Account Transcript, but is more complicated and may be much more difficult to interpret.

An IRS Tax Return Transcript can be obtained by filing IRS Form 4506T-EZ or IRS Form 4506-T. An IRS Form 4506-T can also be used to request an IRS Tax Account Transcript, Record of Account or Verification of Nonfiling Letter, in addition to an IRS Tax Return Transcript. IRS Form 4506-T is required for fiscal year filers, who cannot use IRS Form 4506T-EZ.

There is no fee to obtain an IRS Tax Return Transcript. If there is a $50 fee, you are filing the wrong form. IRS Form 4506, as opposed to IRS Form 4506-T or IRS Form 4506T-EZ, is used to obtain a copy of the tax return as filed with the IRS, instead of a transcript of the data from the form.

If the taxpayer filed an amended income tax return, the Tax Return Transcript might not be sufficient, as it reflects only the original return, not the amended return. In such circumstances the college financial aid office may need a signed copy of the 1040X form that was filed. Alternately, the combination of a Tax Return Transcript and a Tax Account Transcript might be sufficient for verification, depending on what information needs to be verified.

How to get a Tax Return Transcript online

The IRS Get Transcript Tool lets taxpayers obtain a PDF version of their tax return transcript online. Visit to use the tool.

The IRS has stringent requirements for verifying the taxpayer’s identity that may prevent low-income students from using the Get Transcript tool to obtain an online copy of their tax return transcript. In addition to providing the taxpayer’s Social Security Number, date of birth, filing status, the mailing address from the federal income tax return and email address, the taxpayer will also need to provide both of the following pieces of information:

  • The telephone number for a mobile phone registered to taxpayer
  • The taxpayer’s credit card number or loan account number (e.g., auto loan, mortgage, home equity loan or HELOC)

The taxpayer’s credit card number will not be charged. It will be used only for authenticating the taxpayer’s identity.

A confirmation code will be sent to the taxpayer’s email address and an authentication code will be texted to the taxpayer’s cell phone. Both codes are required to obtain an immediate copy of the tax return transcript online.

How to get a Tax Return Transcript by mail

If the taxpayer is unable to obtain a tax return transcript online, they can ask for one to be sent to them by mail.

They can use the online Get Transcript tool to ask to have an IRS Tax Return Transcript sent by mail. They can also order it by phone by calling 1-800-908-9946. In both cases, the tax return transcript will be sent to the address on the tax return.

What If the taxpayer has moved?

If the taxpayer has moved, the tax return transcript will not be forwarded by the U.S. postal service to their new address.

If the taxpayer has moved since the federal income tax return was filed, the taxpayer should file IRS Form 8822, Change of Address to change the taxpayer’s address with the IRS. Generally, it takes up to four to six weeks to process a change of address.

After you have submitted a change-of-address form with the IRS, wait a few weeks before submitting IRS Form 4506-T or IRS Form 4506T-EZ to get a tax return transcript or verification of nonfiling letter. 

As of July 2019, the IRS will no longer send tax transcripts to a third party address or by fax, so you can no longer have the IRS send the tax transcript directly to the college financial aid office. 

Timeline for Receiving an IRS Tax Transcript

It can take up to six weeks after filing a tax return by mail and two to four weeks after filing a tax return electronically for the tax return transcript to become available.

When a tax return is filed by April 15, the tax return transcript is generally available by June 1, regardless of whether the return was mailed or filed electronically.

It can take some time after the tax return transcript becomes available before it can be delivered to the taxpayer.

  • If the taxpayer requests an online copy of the tax return transcript using the online Get Transcript tool and satisfies the extra authentication requirements, delivery will be immediate.
  • If the taxpayer requests a tax return transcript by mail using the online Get Transcript tool, delivery will take five to 10 business days.
  • If the taxpayer submits a paper form by mail, delivery will take seven to 14 business days (about 10 business days after receipt).

If the taxpayer submits a change of address to the IRS before requesting an IRS Tax Return Transcript, this will add a delay of about 10 business days.

Thus, the total time to receive an IRS Tax Return Transcript can be as long as 24 business days (five weeks).

What If the taxpayer is the victim of identity theft?

Taxpayers who are victims of tax-related identity theft will need to call the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU) at 1-800-908-4490, who will mail the taxpayer a copy of their Tax Return DataBase View (TRDBV) transcript.

What does ‘per computer’ mean?

An IRS Tax Return Transcript may include “per computer” figures for some federal income tax return data. The “per computer” figures correct mathematical errors on the federal income tax return. The college financial aid administrator will rely on the “per computer” figures, since they are more accurate. The IRS Data Retrieval Tool also reports “per computer” figures for adjusted gross income (AGI), income tax paid and education tax credits. Figures that are labeled “recomputed per computer” as opposed to just “per computer” are ignored in verification.

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