Safekeeping of all your important financial information has always been preached by institutions and most likely your parents. This is perfectly sound advice to follow but you always come across situations that may challenge your ability to do this. Not many people constantly monitor the status of these documents. Fortunately, most statements can be obtained online through personal accounts or retrieved through the issuing institution if needed. Original documents with signatures that should be kept in a safe place include: loan or mortgage documents, apartment or vehicle leases, tax returns and supporting documents, insurance documents, and estate and legal documents. (These items can be destroyed after a certain period but that will be discussed in another blog post.)
There are many reasons in life why you might lose these documents. These documents may be destroyed in a natural disaster, lost during a move, or you could simply misplace them. The reason is not necessarily important, however, recovery is.
How can you recover your tax information if it is lost or destroyed? At no charge, you can contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to obtain transcripts for your current information and for the past three years. A transcript will only show the basic information for the year requested. An account transcript can be obtained by the same method. This will show any adjustments made by the taxpayer or IRS after the tax return has been filed. You can obtain these documents by calling the IRS at 800-908-9946 or via the IRS website. You should receive these transcripts within ten days of the request. Requests may also be made by mail but will take much longer to process and receive.
If you need an actual copy of the tax return that was filed with the IRS you will need to cough up $57 and complete a Form 4506 Request for Copy of Tax Return. This will then need to be mailed to the IRS address specific to your area. Your fee may be waived if you are located in certain disaster areas identified by the IRS.
A cheap and easy way to save important documents, including tax returns and supporting documents, is to scan these items and save them in an email document manager such as Google Documents. If you are unfamiliar with this system or do not own a Google email you could always email the document to your own email account in order to save it.
If you need assistance or run into other issues regarding obtaining your tax information please feel free to contact me.