Answering Your Tax Questions- How Do I Retrieve Tax Returns?

I've received and answered hundreds of tax questions over the years. If you've got one, simply e-mail me. Here's a question I receive often:

How do you get tax returns from previous years?

You should keep tax records for seven years in case of an audit or another emergency. Don't do this? You're not alone. Whether you owe the IRS or not, now's as good time a time as any to start gathering those documents. Here's what you do:

- Contact your accountant or tax preparer. I hope you hired a good one that has copies of your tax returns to send to you. If they don't have your returns, fire them; then try the option below.

- Obtain copies from the IRS by using IRS Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. The downside is the outlandish fee, $57 per tax year requested. That'll teach you to keep previous year's tax forms on hand, won't it?

-Other tax documents you should keep filed away include:

canceled checks
bank statements
deposit slips
charitable contributions
medical bills
pay stubs
pension plan records
credit card statements

While your at it, why don't your organize all of your vital documents and keep them in a fireproof safe? The IRS may remove penalties from your tax debt if you're affected by a natural disaster that destroys your tax forms, but you're out of luck if you're audited and your tax documents are either lost or destroyed.