How to Find Missing Tax Information

Missing Tax Documents

Tax documents are a vital piece of the tax return. When you file online, you need to ensure that the income/deduction information you're entering is correct and precise and your tax documents can assist with this. If you file a paper form, you may also need to send the IRS and state taxing authorities a copy of some of your documents. Further, all tax documents (originals or copies) should be retained for at least 3 years after filing in the event of an audit. However, what happens if you lose one of these documents or the original simply never arrives?

Prior Year Tax Returns

Taxpayers can request a transcript of their prior year's tax return directly from the IRS. The IRS retains your tax information for six years. While you may not be able to access certain missing tax documents from the IRS, it is possible for you to obtain a prior return for a purpose such as applying for a loan or receiving monetary assistance.

You can use the IRS’s online tool to order a transcript or you can call the IRS directly at 1-800-908-9946. You can also use a form from the 4506 family of forms to order a transcript via mail or fax.

Form 1099 for Miscellaneous Income

If you do any freelance work or are self-employed, your 1099s are an important way to ensure you have accurately reported your income. Anyone that pays you over $600 should send you a 1099 form. Copies of these are sent to the IRS, so it is important that the income reported on your return matches the form(s) exactly to avoid any red flag and/or audit. In fact, filing with inaccurate numbers can even trigger a 25 percent penalty in rare cases.

If you have a 1099 that is missing. A replacement should be requested directly from the business or individual for whom you provided work. Note, even if they do not provide you with a 1099, you are still responsible for reporting the income.

Form 1099 for Interest and Dividends

A bank or financial institution may send you a 1099-Div or 1099-Int. The deadline for the vast majority of these forms is January 31, so if you have not received your form by the second week in February, you may need to contact your financial institution to obtain a replacement copy.

This is one of the forms that you generally do not have to include with your tax return. Which means it may be sufficient for you to obtain and keep record of this information by some other means, such as through an online portal.

Finding W-2s

Copies of prior or current W-2s can be requested from the IRS by using the same process for obtaining a prior year return. However, this process can take up to 10 days for an online request (up to 30 days for a mail or fax request) to be granted. Waiting this long may not be an option for some taxpayers.

Most employers are willing to provide a copy of your W-2 if you have misplaced the original. Some larger employers even maintain their own online portal where employees can retrieve an electronic version of their W-2 as well.


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