If you're eagerly awaiting an income tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service, you don't have to check the mail or view your bank balance every day. The IRS provides you with online access to the current status of your tax refund. You can't access your tax returns online, but you can order and view transcripts of them without having to pick up the phone or mail a request.
Online Refund Tracking
The IRS offers an online tool called, “Where's My Refund,” that provides you with the processing status of a recently filed tax return and an estimated payment date for your refund. You can access the tool 24 hours after e-filing a return, or after four weeks if you filed a paper copy. To find out the status of your return, all you need to do is enter your Social Security number, filing status and refund amount into the designated fields. And since the IRS updates the tool every 24 hours, it isn't necessary to check your refund status more than once per day.
IRS Tax Return and Tax Account Transcripts
When you need immediate access to the information reported on a filed tax return that you can't seem to find a copy of, the IRS offers online access to tax account and tax return transcripts for the current and previous three tax returns. Tax return transcripts report most of the line items on the original return, including the additional forms and schedules attached to it. Tax account transcripts cover only the basic information from your return, such as the filing status used, the form the return was prepared on, adjusted gross income and your taxable income. One advantage of a tax account transcript is that it reflects all of the changes that the IRS made to the return, if any, since filing it, whereas the tax return transcript only shows information as it was originally reported on your return.
Ordering Transcripts Online
You can order both types of transcripts on the IRS website, view them immediately and best of all, don't have to pay for them. To access a transcript, you'll have to fill out an online application. If you encounter problems online, you do have the option of requesting transcripts the old-fashioned way by mailing a request to the IRS on Form 4506T-EZ.
Ordering Copies of Your Tax Return
If nothing but an exact copy of an old tax return will do, you can still obtain it from the IRS, but it can't be done online and isn't for free. Whether it's Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ you want, your request must be made on Form 4506 and mailed to the IRS. With Form 4506, you can request tax returns from the prior seven years, though it costs $50 for each copy and can take up to 75 days before you receive it in the mail. Filling out Form 4506 requires some personal and tax return information that includes your Social Security number (and that of your spouse, if requesting a joint return), the type of 1040 form filed and the relevant tax year.
Michael Marz has worked in the financial sector since 2002, specializing in wealth and estate planning. After spending six years working for a large investment bank and an accounting firm, Marz is now self-employed as a consultant, focusing on complex estate and gift tax compliance and planning.