Just in time for tax season, the IRS has launched a new online Get Transcript portal that taxpayers may use to obtain records of past tax returns — also called “transcripts” by the IRS.

By using the portal, taxpayers can download and print their transcripts immediately. In the past, they had to be obtained by postal mail, a process that took five to 10 business days. The IRS has given the portal a soft launch, so there hasn’t been much publicity about it.

IRS transcripts are often used to validate income and tax filing status for mortgage applications, and student and small-business loan applications. They can also come in very handy when you’re doing your taxes, or are being audited by the IRS or other tax agency, and can’t find a prior return in your records.

Get Transcript allows taxpayers to obtain five types of transcripts from the IRS:

Tax return transcripts: These are the most complete transcripts. They show most line items from your tax return a (Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) as it was originally filed, including forms and schedules. However, this transcript does not reflect any changes made after you filed your return — for example, if you later amended your return for the year. A return transcript will usually meet the requirements of lending institutions offering mortgages and student loans. These transcripts are available for tax years 2011-2013.

Tax account transcripts: These are not as complete as return transcripts. They show only basic data, including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income. However, they include any adjustments either you or the IRS made after you filed your return. These transcripts are available for tax years 2010-2012.

Record of account transcripts: These combine the information from tax account and tax return transcripts. These transcripts are available for tax years 2009-2013.

Wage and income transcripts: These show data from information returns, such as W-2s, 1099s and 1098s, reported to the IRS. Most recent year information may not be complete until July. These transcripts are available for tax years 2004-2013.

Verification of nonfiling letters: These are not really transcripts. Rather, they are proof from the IRS that you did not file a return this year. Current year requests are available only after June 15. This letter does not address whether the taxpayer should have filed a tax return.

Only individual taxpayers can get their transcripts through Get Transcript. Tax preparers may not use it.

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 20 books, including “The Real Estate Agent’s Tax Deduction Guide,” “Working for Yourself,” “Deduct It!” and “Working with Independent Contractors.” His website can be found at fishmanlawandtaxfiles.com.

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