What the IRS Has On File About You and How to Obtain Your Tax Files
By Becky Schmitz
IRS liens and levies can wreak havoc on a person's life, making it difficult to
obtain financing on a home or a car and wiping out savings. Maybe you want access
to your tax files to see where the problem began because you want to get it solved
without ending up on the evening news. Fortunately, there is an answer for people
who would like to see the type of information in their IRS files. Finding out how
the IRS determines taxes, interest and penalties is possible without an extensive
accounting background. The act that can help is called the Freedom of Information
The FOIA is for people seeking to obtain government records and allows individuals
or any organization to acquire information on federal agencies. The FOIA basically
says that government agencies must provide requested information if they have the
information unless there are particular restrictions prohibiting public release
of the information. The Freedom of Information Act makes government information
accessible and applies to all 15 government departments and 73 federal agencies.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is one of these agencies.
Anyone can request IRS records. Here’s how:
What the IRS Needs to Process the Request Type of Requester
- Describe the records being requested specifically. Try to give the name, subject
matter, years, and location about the information in the documents.
- Cite the Privacy Act and FOIA to get the fullest disclosure possible.
- Say whether you want to inspect the records or have a copy of the records made without
- Include your address and phone number so the IRS can respond and contact you if
- Write “FOIA” on the envelope.
- Mail your response to the correct IRS office, which depends on the state where you
live. View the list of addresses at
The request should state what type of requester you are so the IRS can determine
any applicable fees. The categories are commercial use, media, educational institutions
/ non-commercial scientific institutional, and others (which include individual
The cost of a copy of a tax return as filed is $39. For all requesters, no fee is
charged if the total charges are $10 or less. For individuals, there is no charge
for the first 100 pages but $.20 per page after and no charge for the first 2 hours
of searching but $17 per hour or fraction of an hour after. Your request must include
an agreement to pay all fees generated from processing your request and can include
an upper limit to the fees you are willing to pay.
Proof of Identity and Authority
If records you are requesting are confidential and not available to the general
public, then you must submit proof of identity and proof of authority to access
Signature The request must be in writing and signed by the person requesting the
information (stamped signatures not allowed).
Here is an example of an FOIA letter to send to the IRS:
Internal Revenue Service
This is a request under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.
I am requesting a copy of the following documents:
I do not want to inspect the documents first.
I am an Other Requester, requesting this information for personal use.
As proof of my identity, I have included a photocopy of my driver’s license.
I am willing to pay fees for this request up to the amount of $_
If fees will exceed this limit, please inform me.
Thanks for your consideration.
How to Get Your Request Accepted
By following the above guidelines, it is possible to view your personal IRS records.
Obtaining records of a deceased person or of a business is also possible as long
as the proper documentation is submitted. For records of a deceased individual,
proof of status as an administrator, executor, or trustee of estate or a copy of
a will or birth certificate if a beneficiary, next of kin, or heir is needed. If
requesting the records of a business, provide an official document that shows you
as a corporate officer, partner, sole proprietor, or shareholder.
Response times range from 0 to 921 days, with the average response time 30 days.
Requests denied by the IRS are for confidential tax information from individuals
not authorized to receive it or for information about tax investigations, where
disclosure may impair the investigation.
Becky Schmitz is a certified tax resolution specialist and enrolled agent. Named
2006 Top Practitioner by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers, she is the
owner of Centsable Accounting, a tax problem resolution company serving Montana,
Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.