IRS Tax Return Transcripts: Do It Yourself Or Not?


The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers to request transcripts both online and on the telephone. But is this the best move? Let's discuss the advantages of getting your own IRS tax return transcripts yourself versus hiring a tax professional to do it for you.


The advantages of requesting IRS tax return transcripts yourself:

  • It's cheap! It doesn't cost you a thing to request your transcripts online. Calling  for your IRS tax return transcripts is also free; just bear in mind that it can take a fairly long hold time to get to someone to fill your request.


The disadvantages of requesting an IRS tax return transcript yourself:

  • Time:  It takes a long time to actually receive your transcript. Once you request it, it takes a few weeks for it to be delivered to you via mail. You do not have immediate access to your own transcripts. 
  • Do you know which transcript you actually need? There are Account Transcripts, W&I transcripts, Record of Account Transcripts, Imfolts, Bfolts. There is also some information that isn't even included on a transcript and can only be requested using a Freedom of Information Request.
  • Stayng under the radar: If you call the IRS for transcripts that could awake a sleeping tiger. Calling may trigger the dreaded "Notice Stream" (aka Collections Process). Sometimes it is better to lay low.
  • Interpreting: Do you know how to read an IRS tax return transcript?  Do you know which one to read and how to determine when you can file bankruptcy, when the CSED will expire, how long you have to file a claim for refund? What appeals, if any, are available? The average person cannot be expected to understand the IRS' language.


The disadvantages of hiring a tax firm to request your IRS tax return transcripts:

  • Not all firms are created equal.  You need to be careful of people who make promises about how easy it is to settle taxes. Some firms will simply forward you the transcripts. But asking what it all means? Developing a strategy? Not all firms have an IRSMedic Total Tax Diagnosis equivalent.
  • A firm will want to get paid.  You will have to pay a firm to request a transcript for you, but it could be the best money you spend as long they give you the big picture you need.


The advantages of hiring a tax resolution firm to request your IRS tax return transcripts:

  • Time: The IRS gives tax professionals a special number so that tax transcripts can be faxed in hours, not weeks.
  • Keeping up to date: A tax law firm that is properly outfitted with e-services can keep track of day-to-day changes with certain transcripts online.
  • Thoroughness: A competent tax firm will know exactly which transcripts to order, and how.
  • Understanding  When you hire one of the best tax attorneys to get your transcript, they will also be able to explain to you exactly what everything means, in a language you can understand, and advise the best course of action.



Getting and understanding IRS tax return transcripts form the foundation of every successful tax controversy resolution. It's the start of every one of our cases. Sometimes, after completing the Total Tax Diagnosis, our clients find out they have a little problem, or no problem at all. Click on the box below to learn more about Total Tax Diagnosis.