How to Access an Individual Master File From the IRS

The IRS, an ongoing record, all your tax-related activities
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Ever wonder what exactly the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows about you? Anyone who's every earned wages or paid taxes has amassed an Individual Master File (IMF). The IMF contains every transaction and financial record gathered by IRS officials throughout the course of your lifetime. The file is a resource for any curious taxpayer or anyone wanting to mount evidence against an IRS error or audit.

Step 1

Locate your regional disclosure officer. Internal Revenue Service Disclosure officers process all public information requests. The IRS maintains 12 disclosure offices covering all 50 states. Finding your specific disclosure officer is critical.

Step 2

File a Freedom of Information Act Request. Citizens may legally obtain information and documents that must be accessible to the public. The IRS maintains strict guidelines for public requests, so follow the instructions precisely. You must state that the request is being made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), include your name and address, a copy of your driver’s license or a notarized statement affirming your identity, a commitment to pay any applicable fees and your signature. There are four requester categories: commercial, media, educational or noncommercial scientific institution, and others (individuals). Different fees apply to each category, so identify your respective designation within your request.

Step 3

Be specific. The Individual Master File comes in two varieties: IMF SPECIFIC and IMF MCC TRANSCRIPT-SPECIFIC. The IMF MCC TRANSCRIPT-SPECIFIC details every transaction documented by the IRS. In your FOIA request, insist that the file contain bold and legible print and ink that is readable.

Step 4

Know the codes. Your transcript will contain codes that correspond to different transactions and categories. Therefore, you won’t be able to decipher your file if you have no knowledge or reference material explaining each code. Go to the Electronic Reading Room on the IRS website, and search for Document 6209. This annually-updated reference guide contains all of the relevant codes to explain the activity on your master file transcript.

Step 5

Know your rights. The IRS must furnish requested items within 20 business days of original receipt. You may file an administrative appeal if your request is denied. Copying and search fees are also applicable to individual requests. There are no copying charges for the first 100 pages, but 20 cents per page thereafter. There is no search fee for first 2 hours, but $17 per hour thereafter. There are no fees if total charges are $10 or less.

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