What is a tax transcript, and why could you need one?

A man uses his laptop to go through his tax transcript.

This article defines tax transcripts, outlines the different types, and explains why you might need them.

What are tax transcripts, exactly? You may know that it’s good to keep copies of your past tax returns, but you may not always know where to find your files. Paper copies get stored and forgotten, and digital files can get deleted. There are several reasons why you may need a copy of past tax information, and tax transcripts can help when you do.

What are tax transcripts?

Tax transcripts are a summary of certain kinds of tax information. You can get them from the IRS when you need them. All you need to do is request the one you need from the IRS on their website. The information can be sensitive, so you’ll need to prove who you are.

There are many times when having a summary of your tax return could be useful — for example, if you’re applying for a mortgage or business loan or want to participate in federal healthcare programs. In these and other cases, you must not only prove your past income but also that you filed your taxes.

Not everyone knows how long to keep tax returns, so if you’ve accidentally thrown them out or lost them, tax transcripts come in handy.

What are the different types of tax transcripts?

There are five different types of tax transcripts. Here’s the list and what’s included in each:

  1. Tax Return Transcript. This type summarizes the lines entered on your original tax return.
  2. Tax Account Transcript. Here you’ll find your filing status and adjusted gross income.
  3. Record of Account Transcript. This one is a combination of the previous two.
  4. Wages and Income Transcript. This transcript shows only the income section of your return.
  5. Verification of Non-filing Letter. This form can prove you didn’t file for a specific year.

What does a tax transcript look like?

A tax transcript typically includes taxpayer information (name, Social Security number), filing status, adjusted gross income, taxable income, tax liability, credits, payments, and account details. It may vary in format based on the type of transcript requested (return or account transcript) but provides a summary of tax return information filed with the IRS for a specific year.

How can I get my tax transcript online immediately?

The IRS will mail you any of these different tax transcripts, but the quickest and easiest way to receive them is to download a PDF directly from their website. Save the transcript to your computer or device, and make sure it looks as expected in a PDF viewer. You can then print it or forward it to the company or agency that requires it. Plus, it’s easy to use and password-protect PDFs so that they’re secure.

To get your tax transcript online immediately, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the IRS website. Go to the official website of the IRS.
  2. Click Get Your Tax Record. On the IRS homepage, locate the Get Your Tax Record link. This prompt will direct you to the page where you can request your tax transcript.
  3. Choose Get Transcript Online. On the Get Your Tax Record page, select the Get Transcript Online option.
  4. Create or log in to your account. If you have not used the online tool before, you will need to create an account. If you already have one, log in using your existing credentials.
  5. Verify your identity. To protect your personal information, the IRS will ask you to verify your identity. You will need to provide information such as your Social Security number, date of birth, and mailing address.
  6. Select the tax year and transcript type. Choose the specific tax year for which you need the transcript and the type of transcript you require (Return Transcript or Account Transcript).
  7. View and download the transcript. After completing the verification process, you can view and download your tax transcript immediately from the website.

There’s much more you can do with Adobe Acrobat online services — take a moment and explore.