How do I check my previous year's tax return online?

Tax return documents provide lots of information that you might need to access even after the tax year has passed. When you file online, you enjoy the benefit of having a digital copy of your return. Rather than having to dig through boxes of old files stored in the garage, you can simply log in to your account on your tax preparer's website and view or print whatever information you need from a previous year's tax return.

Who Has Access

An online copy of your tax return is only available when you file your return using a commercial website that supports electronic filing such as TurboTax or H&R Block. These services calculate your income tax and allow you to e-file your return; the return is transmitted electronically to the IRS. Most online tax preparers caution you to print a copy of your return for your files, but a digital copy of the document will remain on the company's server. If you filed a traditional paper tax return last year, you will not be able to access your return online.

How to Access

Viewing or printing a previous year's tax return is straightforward and convenient. Log on to the website of the tax service that you used to e-file for the year in question. Enter your username and password at the login prompt. You should be taken directly to your account home page. Look for a link to "Prior Tax Returns" or something similar. Click that link to view the past returns you have filed. Click on the return that you wish to view and wait a moment. The tax return will display in your browser.

Viewing or Amending Your Return

Once a tax return has been filed, you can view or print the document but you cannot change any of the information displayed on the form. A copy of the tax return was electronically filed with the Internal Revenue Service. If you find an error on a previous year's return, you can correct it only by filing an amended return. Your online tax preparer can assist you with this service and may provide a convenient link that you can click to begin an amended return. Complete the new return with the correct information just as you did when you filed the original document. After you've paid the fee to e-file the amended return, it will be electronically transmitted to the IRS. Be sure to print a paper copy of the amended return for your records.

Be aware that filing an amended return may subject you to interest and penalties if you owe back taxes. Before you do this, it would be advisable for you to consult with a tax professional concerning your situation.

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About the Author

Based in Central Florida, Ron White has worked as professional journalist since 2001. He specializes in sports and business. White started his career as a sportswriter and later worked as associate editor for Maintenance Sales News and as the assistant editor for "The Observer," a daily newspaper based in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. White has written more than 2,000 news and sports stories for newspapers and websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.

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