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Obtaining Information from the IRS: Part II

By Joel N. Crouch on May 30, 2018

In a prior blog post, we discussed using a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain information from the IRS.  In this blog post we will discuss some other sources of information from the IRS.

  1. Copy of a Tax Return.  A copy of a tax return can be obtained by filing a Form 4506 Request for Copy of Tax Return and paying the requisite fee, currently $50.  Because the IRS processing time for a Form 4506 can be 60 days or more, alternatives such as the tax return preparer’s copy or a Tax Return Transcript should be considered.  In addition, if the taxpayer is working with someone at the IRS who has access to the Administrative File, discussed below, he or she can provide a copy of the tax return.
  2. IRS Transcripts. IRS transcripts can be obtained online, by telephone or by filing a Form 4506-T.
    1. Tax Return Transcript (TRT).  The TRT shows most line items from the original tax return as filed, along with any forms and schedules.  The TRT does not show changes made after the original tax return was filed. The TRT is only available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years. A TRT generally meets the needs of lending institutions and can be provided in lieu of the actual tax return.
    2. Tax Account Transcript (TAT).  The TAT shows basic data such as return type, payments, penalties or interest assessed or paid, balance due, refunds, and all of the items in the TRT.  For individuals, the TAT includes marital status, adjusted gross income and taxable income. The TAT also shows changes made after the original return was filed including adjustments made by the IRS or by an amended tax return.  A TAT is available for the current tax year and up to 10 prior years. When requesting a TAT by mail or telephone,  the taxpayer is generally limited to the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years.
    3. Record of Account Transcript (RAT).  The RAT combines the tax return and tax account transcripts above into one complete transcript. This transcript is available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years.
    4. Information Return Program (IRP), also called a Wage and Income Transcript.  The IRP shows data from information returns the IRS receives such as Forms W-2, 1099, 1098 and Form 5498, IRA Contribution Information. The IRP is useful where a taxpayer is trying to reconstruct financial information and file delinquent tax returns.  The IRP is also helpful in responding to a notice that the IRS has filed a substitute for return for a delinquent taxpayer.  An IRP is generally available for up to six prior years.
  3. Administrative File.  The administrative file will contain most information related to a tax return.  A request for a review and/or copy of the administrative file is, in most cases, a more efficient means of obtaining much of the information covered by a Freedom of Information Act request.  The administrative file will include:
    1. Copies of tax returns or tax return transcripts.
    2. Documents executed by the IRS or the taxpayer including waivers or extensions of the statute of limitations, closing agreements and settlement documents.
    3. Levies, liens and other collection related documents.
    4. Communications with  third parties and documents obtained from third parties including bank records or tax return preparer work papers.
    5. The IRS agent’s activity report.
    6. Audit checklist and audit work papers.
    7. Appeals officer’s case memorandum.
    8. Revenue agent’s report.
  4. Request for Third Party Contacts.  Pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 7602, the IRS must give a taxpayer advance notice that it will be contacting third parties with respect to the determination or collection of such taxpayer’s tax liability.  In general,  the IRS will use Publication 1, “Your Rights as a Taxpayer” to satisfy the advance general notice requirement that third parties may be contacted during the course of an examination, appeal, collection, and or refund.  A taxpayer may request a record of persons contacted by the IRS with respect to the determination or collection of the tax liability of such taxpayer.  In response to a taxpayer’s request, the IRS will generally provide a written list of third parties contacted.  However, the IRS is not required to provide any information with respect to contact with a third party that the taxpayer authorized, when the IRS determines that such notice would either jeopardize collection of any tax or may involve reprisal against any person, or with respect to any pending criminal investigation.

Just as it is important for the IRS to obtain information from the taxpayer, it is equally important for the taxpayer to obtain information from the IRS. Using these tools for obtaining information can help a taxpayer reach a satisfactory result with the IRS more quickly.

For any questions on this or any other tax-related matter, please feel free to contact me at (214) 749-2456 or jcrouch@meadowscollier.com.