With the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) mostly closed for business, taxpayers have been unable to obtain routine tax transcripts and other documentation used for income verification. Without that information, lenders may be forced to delay financing or refinancing mortgages and other loans. Recognizing the hardship, the IRS has announced steps to offer some relief during the government shutdown.
According to an IRS statement, the agency began processing tax transcript requests earlier this week (as of January 7, 2019) made through the Income Verification Express Service (IVES) program. IVES is a user fee-based program used primarily by mortgage lenders and similar financial institutions to confirm a borrower’s income. The transcript information is delivered to a secure mailbox based on information received from a federal form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return (downloads as a pdf) or the shorter version, form 4506T-EZ. (You can read more about lenders and tax transcripts here.)
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that the IRS can’t promise that requests will be turned around in the normal 72-hour window that lenders are used to. It will, the IRS notes, “take time to bring this service up to normal operating status.” That’s because employees are just now returning to work – and they’re facing backlogs from requests that have piled up since the shutdown began. Your best advice? Plan ahead and be patient.
In addition, the IRS is also restarting other user fee-based services such as letters for taxpayers in need of United States residency certification for tax treaty benefits. The agency will also respond to requests for photocopies of tax returns: taxpayers can submit form 4506 and pay a $50 fee for a copy of each tax return. Again, be prepared for delays: according to the IRS, it can take 75 calendar days to process the request.
If you need information soon – and for free – don’t forget that you can obtain some information online. You can typically click over to the “Get Transcript Online” tool on the IRS website here and view, print or download your transcript (it’s showing an error as of now, but the IRS says that it will be available). You’ll have to register to use the service which means you’ll need your personally identifiable information (including your Social Security Number, date of birth, filing status and mailing address from latest tax return), access to both your email account and a cell phone with your name on the account, and your personal account number from a credit card, mortgage, home equity loan, home equity line of credit or car loan. The extra information is used to help verify that you are who you claim to be to help protect you from identity theft.
Unfortunately, during the shutdown, you cannot use the toll-free number to order your transcript over the phone (you’ll simply get a recording advising that live telephone assistance is not available).
For more information about what’s up and running at the IRS during the shutdown and what it means for tax season, check back regularly.