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Lev, Tax Advisor
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 29569
Experience:  Taxes, Immigration, Labor Relations
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I was in the US in 1996 on a J-1 visa. I have recently

Customer Question

I was in the US in 1996 on a J-1 visa. I have recently returned as my husband has been transferred here for work. I am applying for a work permit but they are asking for my tax returns from 1996. I honestly cannot remember them. I found the state tax returns but have not found the federal return and cannot remember if I filed one. I was on a student work travel program so I followed all the instructions. How can I know if I filed one and how can I retrieve it?
Submitted: 1 year ago via Cornell Legal Info Institute.
Category: Tax
Expert:  Lev replied 1 year ago.

That information may be only found within IRS system.
Normally you woudl need to request a transcript of your tax return.

Generally - transcripts from the IRS are available only for past 6 years and copies of your tax returns - for past three years.
You still may obtain older information from the IRS - but most likely will need a professional help. You may find here some detailed information about requesting and decoding the Individual Master File (IMF) -
That is the only way to get older information from the IRS system.
The following IRS documents provides some additional information on the IRS master file:
Information about your tax account including informational tax returns (W2, 1099's and similar forms) are stored in electronic versions (not actual copies) - so you need to contact a local CPA to help you decoding that information.
Sorry - there is no simple solution.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Can you confirm the income required to have filed a federal return in 1996? I was only in the US for a few months so may have been below it.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I am awaiting a response
Expert:  Lev replied 1 year ago.

I assume that you was a nonresident alien - correct?
That assumption is based on your visa and time you spent in the US in that year.
See filing requirements here

-- if your only U.S. source income is wages in an amount less than the personal exemption amount - you are not required to file.

The personal exemption amount in 1996 was $2,550

Expert:  Lev replied 1 year ago.

Does that answer your question?


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If you still have any doubts, need clarification - please be sure to ask.

I am here to help you will all tax related issues.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I contacted a CPA who told me that I would not be able to get the forms from the IRS, so your response is not entirely accurate.
Expert:  Lev replied 1 year ago.

I stay with my answer and I believe it is 100% accurate.
Your CPA is correct that you will not be able to get either copies of the actual return or transcript - and that is exactly I posted above.
However - that information is included into your Individual Master File (IMF) which is identified by your tax ID (normally SSN)
That information potentially may be obtained. Whether your CPA may help with that or not - and whether that could be cost effective - that is a separate issue.