Among the many problems that contributed to the housing market implosion of 2007-2010 was that of unsubstantiated income claims on mortgage applications. In addition to the other variables, this misreporting (sometimes innocent, sometimes fraudulent by design) resulted in people getting mortgages that they could not afford. Today, mortgage lenders are making much more widespread use of IRS Form 4506-T, and it is also a good tool for verifying income for other reasons, including loans, employment and financial planning.
When signed by a taxpayer, Form 4506-T authorizes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to release transcripts (not actual returns or copies) showing previous tax returns, W-2 data and 1099 information to a third party. This third party can be a lender, employer or even one’s accountant. The great majority of requests for tax transcripts, however, come from home lending institutions and/or real estate agents and firms. Government guidelines for federally guaranteed mortgages now require Form 4506-T to be filed at two different points in the application process.
The IRS charges a fee for Form 4506 (without the “t”), because this form requests actual photocopies of returns. This is often a lengthy process, as the IRS allows itself up to 60 days to fulfill these requests. Although there is no fee for Form 4506-T, it is costly and time-consuming for individuals as well as financial institutions to process large numbers of requests. Various companies have formed to process bulk orders of these forms with the IRS, and the government has established advantageous guidelines for doing so. In many cases, requests are fulfilled within 24 hours, although the guidelines allow the IRS up to 48 hours to respond to bulk requests. It can take from 10 to 60 days to receive a reply from the IRS when you file the forms yourself.
Clearly, any company claiming a same-day turnaround is being deceptive, as the guidelines are clear. The best tax verification firms have no need to be deceptive as their records and results are easy to demonstrate. A good tax verification company will also work with you and your company to ensure that the paperwork is all filled out correctly, minimizing rejections and maximizing efficiency. Form 4506-T must be filled out completely and correctly, including the taxpayer name(s), Social Security number(s), current and former addresses, and the tax years requested. For transcripts that will be sent to a third party, the form must be received within 120 days of the date it is signed by the taxpayer.
Technology at work
Authorized bulk vendors process millions of requests every year through the IRS system’s various data processing centers. As would be expected of companies doing this professionally, leading firms will stay on the cutting edge of technology and work with the IRS to continuously improve, streamline and optimize the processes. Because of this, the firms can usually offer a range of prices, depending on the number of records requested and other factors. With Form 4506-T one can order transcripts covering a taxpayer’s 1040 personal returns, as well as 1120, 1065, W-2 and 1099 data.
The service as practiced by leading verification firms could not be easier or more straightforward. Typically, you and/or your company will establish a customer profile in the verification firm’s Web-based order system. Orders are created online and Form 4506-T is uploaded directly into the company’s processing system. In the usual transaction, you will likely check certain boxes or otherwise indicate what kind of transcripts you wish to obtain for verification of income. When results are obtained, you may receive an e-mail (or other contact, such as a phone call) and then log in to your account to get them. Transcripts are usually supplied in the easily-read, digital file format known as PDF (Portable Document Format) that is viewable with the freely available Adobe Acrobat Reader application.
A few lines of fine print
You can request information from the last four tax years. Be forewarned, however, that if a taxpayer has filed for an extension or submitted amended returns, the IRS can take from six to eight weeks to integrate this data into their system. This is further incentive for you to get all relevant information up front, so that you do not waste time, money or effort in what should be a smooth, simple process. An analysis of the 4506-T program shows clearly that bad information at the beginning is the major reason for order rejection. With fraud prevention being increasingly important in home sales, employment and other financial dealings, it is thoroughly unprofessional to give the verification process anything less than full, effective attention.
In fact, non-matching addresses are the primary reason for rejection. If accurate previous address information is not included (line 4) on Form 4506-T, you may not receive the transcripts you request. Another major cause of problems is another simple, avoidable error, namely, illegible entries and obscure signatures. It is essential when filing this paperwork that all data is not just correct, but clear and readable, as well. If there is a reason to reject a request, the requestor is typically contacted via the method they indicate in their customer profile, and the problem reported by the IRS service center is then relayed. With proper use, the Form 4506-T process shows how IRS verifications prevent fraud in a wide range of financial transactions and settings.