IRS Pub. 17, Your Federal Income Tax
After you send your return to IRS, you may have some questions.
This section discusses concerns you may have about recordkeeping, your
refund, and what to do if you move.
Should I Keep?
You must keep records so that you can prepare a complete and
accurate income tax return. The law does not require any special form
of records. However, you should keep all receipts, canceled checks or
other proof of payment, and any other records to support any
deductions or credits you claim.
If you file a claim for refund, you must be able to prove by your
records that you have overpaid your tax.
How long to keep records.
You must keep your records for as long as they are important for
the federal tax law.
Keep records that support an item of income or a deduction
appearing on a return until the period of limitations for the return
runs out. (A period of limitations is the limited period of time after
which no legal action can be brought.) For assessment or collection of
tax you owe, this is 3 years from the date you filed the return. For
filing a claim for credit or refund, this is 3 years from the date you
filed the original return, or 2 years from the date you paid the tax,
whichever is later. Returns filed before the due date are treated as
filed on the due date.
If you did not report income that you should have reported on your
return, and it is more than 25% of the income shown on the return, the
period of limitations does not run out until 6 years after you filed
the return. If a return is false or fraudulent with intent to evade
tax, or if no return is filed, an action can generally be brought at
You may need to keep records relating to the basis of property
longer than the period of limitations. Keep those records as long as
they are important in figuring the basis of the original or
replacement property. Generally, this means for as long as you own the
property and, after you dispose of it, for the period of limitations
that applies to you. See chapter 14
for information on basis.
If you receive a Form W-2, keep Copy C until you begin
receiving social security benefits. This will help protect those
benefits, just in case there is a question about your work record or
earnings in a particular year. The Social Security Administration
suggests that you confirm your work record with them from time to
Copies of returns.
You should keep copies of tax returns you have filed and the tax
forms package as part of your records. They may be helpful in amending
filed returns or preparing future ones.
If you need a copy of a prior year tax return, you can get it from
the IRS. Use
Form 4506. There is a charge
for a copy of a return, which you must pay with Form 4506.
You can also use Form 4506 to ask for a transcript of your return
filed this year or during the 3 preceding years. It will show most
lines from your original return, including accompanying forms and
Tax account information.
If you need a statement of your tax account showing any later
changes that you or the IRS made to the original return, you will need
to ask for tax account information.
Do not use Form 4506 for tax account information.
Instead, contact the IRS. You should have your name, social security
number or employer identification number (if applicable), tax period,
and form number available. You will get the following information:
- Type of return filed,
- Filing status,
- Federal income tax withheld,
- Tax shown on return,
- Adjusted gross income,
- Taxable income,
- Self-employment tax,
- Number of exemptions,
- Amount of refund,
- Amount of earned income credit, and
- Whether you claimed a mortgage interest deduction or real
estate tax deduction.
For more information on recordkeeping, get Publication 552,
Recordkeeping for Individuals.
Interest on Refunds
If you are due a refund, you may get interest on it. The interest
rates are adjusted quarterly.
If the refund is made within 45 days after the due date of your
return, no interest will be paid. If you file your return after the
due date (including extensions), no interest will be paid if the
refund is made within 45 days after the date you filed. If the refund
is not made within this 45-day period, interest will be paid
from the due date of the return or from the date you filed, whichever
Accepting a refund check does not change your right to claim an
additional refund and interest. File your claim within the period of
time that applies. See Amended Returns and Claims for Refund,
later. If you do not accept a refund check, no more interest
will be paid on the overpayment included in the check.
Interest on erroneous refund.
All or part of any interest you were charged on an erroneous refund
generally will be forgiven. Any interest charged for the period before
demand for repayment was made will be forgiven unless:
- You, or a person related to you, caused the erroneous refund
in any way, or
- The refund is more than $50,000.
For example, if you claimed a refund of $100 on your return, but
the IRS made an error and sent you $1,000, you would not be charged
interest for the time you held the $900 difference. You must, however,
repay the $900 when the IRS asks.
If you do not get your refund within 4 weeks after filing your
return, you can call TeleTax. For details on how to use this telephone
service, see What Is TeleTax? in your tax forms package.
Please wait at least 4 weeks after filing your 1998 tax return before
using this service. In some cases, TeleTax may not have refund
information until 6 weeks after you file.
See IRS e-file, earlier, for information about refund
inquiries when you file an electronic return.
Change of Address
If you have moved, file your return using your new address.
If you move after you filed your return, always notify in writing
the Internal Revenue Service Center where you filed your last return,
or the Chief, Taxpayer Service Division, in your local IRS district
office. You can use Form 8822, Change of Address,
to notify us of your new address. If you are expecting a refund,
also notify the post office serving your old address. This will help
in forwarding your check to your new address (unless you chose direct
deposit of your refund).
Be sure to include your social security number (and the name and
social security number of your spouse, if you filed a joint return) in
any correspondence with the IRS.
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