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What Should I do About a Lost Tax Return?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Taxpayers who have lost tax returns they filed in prior years can request a copy from a tax agency like the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. For people facing a lost return from the current tax year, there are several options available, depending on how they filed the document. A lost tax return is not a catastrophe, especially if people identify the problem early.

In a situation where someone wants to be able to reference a tax return from a previous year and appears to have lost the paperwork, there are several things they can do. People who use tax preparation software should be able to call up archived tax returns and reprint them to access the data. For people who use accountants, their accountant can produce a new copy of the lost tax return, and may charge a small fee for this service.

Another option is to contact the government's tax agency about a lost tax return. People can choose between an actual copy of the return as submitted, or a transcript, highlighting key information from the return without actually replicating it. The taxpayer will need to file a form to request a copy of a lost tax return. Copies typically cost money, while transcripts do not. For people who just need basic information, a transcript can be a better option.

When taxpayers get ready to file their tax returns, it is a good idea to make a copy for their records. If the tax return gets lost in the mail or the government fails to process it for some reason, the taxpayer can use the copy to generate a replacement tax return and send it in. Taxpayers not sure about whether the government has received a tax return can check online to see if their return is being processed; tax agencies usually allow people to enter their taxpayer identification numbers to get information about their current year's taxes.

If a lost tax return situation arises when a taxpayer uses an accountant, the accountant can resubmit the paperwork. People using tax preparation software or websites can also resubmit their tax data through the program. If the company charges a fee for submission, it may waive the fee in situations where the tax return was lost. Sending in tax returns as early as possible can be helpful, as it allows some leeway if the paperwork never arrives or there is a problem.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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