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How to get a transcript from the IRS so that you don't make mistakes on your return

Whether you're filing a simple or complex tax return, it's important to make sure it's thorough, and you can have free online tools in the form of IRS (Inland Revenue Service) transcripts to make the process easier. What is it and what is it for? CNBC.

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“Often filing a full and accurate return is much better than filing a quick return,” said Michael Prinzo, managing director of the Clifton LarsonAllen Revenue Service.

Companies annually prepare tax forms such as W-2 or 1099 with copies for taxpayers and the IRS. If you skip one of these forms when filing your return, you risk being audited by the IRS and delaying the process, Prinzo said.

Typically, you can expect a refund within 21 days by filing the IRS Direct Deposit Electronic Declaration.

On the subject: Americans spend billions annually on filing tax returns, although they could do it for free: which services are better to use

How to use IRS transcripts

One way to check which forms you need to submit is to download IRS transcripts online, which summarize some of your key tax information.

Types of IRS transcripts:

  • refund records: most items from the original tax return;
  • account decryption: changes made by you or the IRS since the initial filing, including estimated tax payments or an amended return;
  • account statements: combined data from tax statement and account statement;
  • payroll and income statement: Income tax forms submitted to the IRS, such as W-2 and 1099 (can be completed no earlier than July).

You can learn more about each type of transcript at link.

Payroll and income records can be helpful if you're not sure which forms to file for freelance work or your investment accounts, explains Jacob Keuning, a certified financial planner at Straight Path Wealth Management in Jenison, Michigan.

The downside is that according to the IRS, payroll and income records can only be completed in July. But they can still be useful for changed or expired declarations.

If you're not sure which forms you need to file, Kening says a good starting point is to look at last year's return transcript. “From a tax inspector's point of view, it's like the holy grail,” he says, because it's easy to look through last year's statements line by line.

Of course, it's always best to review the original tax forms for complete details.

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For example, you won't see the "base" or starting price of your investment on your payroll and income statement, which you need to calculate profit or loss, he said.

Other uses of IRS transcripts

A tax return statement is also useful outside of the filing period, especially when working with companies or organizations that need to verify your income.

For example, you may need your tax return when applying for a mortgage, small business loans, or social services.

The tax statement works great as a consolidated version - a couple of pages versus 150 pages.

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