If there’s one piece of not so conventional tax advice this blog has tried to teach you, it’s that past tax returns can really help you in a lot of ways. From everything to making this years tax filing easier to getting a better mortgage, hanging on to your past tax returns really helps you out.
I hope I have you convinced, but: how do you get past tax returns?
The easiest way to get past tax returns is, of course, to never throw them away. For those of us who file electronically, this means hanging on to the PDF copy of our tax returns in a dedicated folder. For those who file by mail, it means taking the time to make a copy (or two!) of your returns before mailing it off. However you do it, hanging on to something is a lot easier than getting something back.
But let’s say you were mailing your returns in at the deadline and so couldn’t make a copy, or your computer crashed and so you lost all those old returns. In those cases, you need to actively get those past tax returns. There are two ways you can do this:
Contact the IRS directly. The IRS has to hang onto your past tax returns for at least one year. If you need to get your past tax returns, they’re a good place to start. Unfortunately they are also a slow place to go. You may have to wait a few months for your request to be processed and then a few more while they send you those returns. You can make this process go a bit faster by making the request before or after the yearly tax crunch, but it will still take a little while.
Contact your e-filing company. If you used an e-filing service in the past, that’s the best way to get past tax returns. Like the IRS, they also keep them on file, but because it’s done electronically, they are more likely to have them going farther back, and that also makes then easier to access. This is why finding a good e-filing company and sticking with them is so important: because it helps you keep better records and get past tax returns faster and more easily.
Your old tax returns can be so helpful, that it’s important to hang onto them for as long as possible. But if you lose them for whatever reason, it’s just as important to get your past tax returns back as soon as you can. Whether you go through the IRS or you old e-filing company, those past tax returns can save you thousands–so having them around should be a priority!