Thursday, December 3, 2009

Requesting tax return copies and tax transcripts

Q How can I get a copy of a prior year’s tax return?

A Form 4506 can be used to request copies of previously filed tax returns or Form W-2 only. The IRS cannot provide copies of information returns such as Form 1099. Form 4506 can also be ordered by calling 1-800-829-3676. There is a charge of $23.00 for a copy of the tax return for each tax period requested.

The IRS also provides tax return transcripts at no charge. A tax return transcript shows most line items from the original tax return, including accompanying tax forms and schedules. It does not reflect any changes you or the IRS made to the original tax return. Tax return transcripts of Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040-EZ are available for tax years after 1991.You may request a tax return transcript by telephone, by personally visiting your local IRS office, or by using Form 4506. A tax return transcript is accepted by most lenders, as well as by Federal student loan offices.

Once you complete the Form 4506, mail it to the IRS service center where you originally filed the tax return. The same Form 4506 can be used to request tax returns for up to four tax periods from the same IRS Service Center. However, you must use a separate Form 4506 for each IRS Service Center from which you are requesting information.

After the tax return request is filed with the IRS, you should allow up to 60 days to receive copies of tax returns, or 10 business days for a tax return transcript, if you request that the information be mailed to you.

However, if you request a tax transcript by phone, you can have it faxed the same day.

Filing joint tax returns for same-sex couples

Q I live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. Can my partner and I file a joint income tax return?

A The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into federal law in 1996, defines marriage as between one man and one woman, prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex couples. And since only married couples can file joint federal tax returns, all gay and lesbian couples must file federal taxes as individuals.

Most civil union and domestic partnership laws provide some benefits of marriage, but fall short at tax benefits for same-sex couples. Civil union and domestic partnership laws also vary state-by-state.

In Massachusetts, Washington DC, Connecticut, New Jersey and in some cases New York, California and Oregon, same-sex couple unions are legally recognized and therefore legally married gay and lesbian couples can file joint state taxes. The State of Washington, while allowing same-sex unions, does not allow domestic partners to file joint returns.

However, for Federal Income Tax purposes, gay and lesbian couples must still file as individuals on their federal returns for the reasons mentioned above.

Be sure to consult a tax professional before preparing and filing your returns to avoid any filing errors.