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Q: Tax Return Access ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Tax Return Access
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: joearchivist-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 21 Jul 2004 07:14 PDT
Expires: 20 Aug 2004 07:14 PDT
Question ID: 377106
How does one get access to federal tax returns filed with the IRS?  I
need to get copies of returns filed by family members who are now
deceased.  The returns would have been filed between 1920 and 1960.  I
would like to know: (1) if such returns are available; and (2) who I
need to contact to obtain copies.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 21 Jul 2004 08:01 PDT
Hello Joe,

I checked with the IRS, and the word is they normally only supply tax
records going back ten years.  The person I spoke with checked to see
if it was possible to go back several decades further, and she said
that -- when she asked the staff in the archives office -- "they
laughed at me".

However, no one at the IRS could say, absolutely, that it was
impossible.  There is a standard IRS form to fill out and submit to
request copies of old tax returns -- you could certainly give this a
try (though they might laugh at you too!).

Also, have you considered contacting Social Security.  They keep
records of income earned against which SS taxes have been paid, so may
also be a source of historical information (though not as detailed as
an actual tax return).

In any event, please let me know if I should post the IRS form
information as an answer to your question, even though it is quite
unlikely that it will produce the desired results.



Clarification of Question by joearchivist-ga on 21 Jul 2004 13:15 PDT
Yes, please post the form.  I did not expect that this type of
information would be available, but thought it was worth the effort.
Subject: Re: Tax Return Access
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 21 Jul 2004 15:13 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello Joe,

Thanks for getting back to me on this.

You will need to file IRS Form 4506 in order to request copies of past
returns.  I've provided information below.

I've also included the help line phone number for the IRS, and I
suggest you give them a call before filing your Form 4506.  I could
only get so far with the help line, but if you were to call and
explain the nature of your request, you might be able to get a more
definitive answer up-front as to the availability of old tax returns.

Before rating this answer, please let me know if you need anything
else.  Just post a Request for Clarification and tell me how I can be
of help, and I'm at your service.

Good luck,



The main page for the IRS is here:

and the page explaining the procedure for obtaining copies of tax
returns is here, with some annotations from me in brackets:


Copies & Transcripts

1.6 IRS Procedures: Copies & Transcripts

How do I request a copy of my tax return for last year?

If you need an exact copy of a previously filed and processed return
and all attachments (including Forms W-2), you must complete Form 4506
(PDF) , Request for Copy of Tax Return and mail it to the IRS address
in the instructions along with a $23 fee (increases to $39 Jan. 1,
2004) for each tax year requested. Copies are generally available for
returns filed in the current and past 6 years.
[NOTE from pafalafa-ga -- the 6 year figure is not an absolute limit,
according to the help desk person I spoke with]

In cases where an exact copy of the return is not needed, tax return
and tax transcripts my be ordered, [NOTE again -- transcripts would
not be available for older returns like the ones you are seeking] to
be sent to you at your address of record, by calling (800) 829-1040 or
completing and mailing Form 4506. Effective Jan. 1, 2004, use, Form
4506-T (PDF) , Request for Transcript of Tax Return. The tax return
transcripts shows most line items contained on the return as it was
originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. In
most cases, a tax return transcript will meet the requirements for
lending institutions for mortgage verification purposes.

The transcript can be ordered by completing a Form 4506 (effective
January 1, 2004, use Form 4506T to request all types of transcripts)
or calling (800) 829-1040 and following the prompts in the recorded
message. There is no charge for the transcript and you should receive
it in 10 business days from the time we receive your request. Tax
return transcripts are generally available for the current and past
three years. If you need a statement of your tax account which shows
changes that you or the IRS made after the original return was filed,
you must request a "Tax Account Transcript". This transcript shows
basic data including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted
gross income, taxable income, payments and adjustments made on your
account. Tax return and account transcripts are generally available
for the current and past 3 years.

Form 4506 can also be used to get proof from the IRS that you did not
file a tax return for a particular tax year (Effective Jan. 1, 2004,
use Form 4506-T).


The actual form itself is at this link, and again, I've included some
relevant excerpts and comments;
Request for Copy of Tax Return

Item 7 on the form is:  Year or period requested 
[NOTE:  you can specify a single broad period here, or break up your
request into separate periods (or individual years).  There is a limit
of four years or periods that can be included on a single form.]

Item 8 Fee. There is a $39 fee for each return requested. Full payment
must be included with your request or it will be rejected.
[NOTE:  That would be a big fee for returns from 1920-1960...another
reason to talk to them first before sending in the form.  The fee is
returned in full if no forms are found].

How long will it take? It may take up to 60 calendar days for us to
process your request.


Contact information for a phone call to the IRS is here:,,id=120193,00.html
Still Can't Find Your Answer?

If you've looked around our site, including the above references, and
still didn't find the answer to your general tax question, please call
our toll-free tax assistance line at 1-800-829-1040 for individual tax
questions or 1-800-829-4933 for business tax questions.

Again, good luck with your quest, and don't hesitate to let me know if
you need anything else.  It's probably a long shot, can't
hurt to ask.


search strategy:  Visited the bookmarked IRS site and explored their
FAQs and other information sources.
joearchivist-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

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