The IRS has recently made some updates to the format of transcripts. The National Taxpayer Advocate describes the updates in a two part blog series you can find here and here. If you have been wondering why the transcript appearance you have grown accustomed to viewing is different, read the posts to gain a better understanding of the format changes the IRS has adopted. If you do not regularly read transcripts, you might read the posts in order to understand what is available to you on the various transcripts that the IRS offers. In my clinic transcripts provide the basic building block for any collection case and often provide useful information on cases involving a contest on the merits.
The blog posts also describe the path to obtaining transcripts which has changed recently for the better. We went through a period where I felt we were operating almost in the dark because it became so difficult to obtain transcripts. The change over the last several months to electronic submission of transcript requests has significantly improved the process and should take pressure off of the IRS since the inability to obtain transcripts going through the Centralized Authorization File (CAF) unit causes practitioners to tie up precious phone lines trying to obtain transcripts. The description in the post includes a description for individuals seeking to obtain their own transcripts. For individuals with computer access, computer skills and the proper identification, this can provide an easy means to gaining information about their status with the IRS.
One of the changes described in the NTA’s posts concerns masked and unmasked wage and income transcripts. I asked for clarification on the terminology which I did understand after reading the first post. Here is the explanation:
The new transcript partially masks personally identifiable information, leaving only a portion of this information visible. The new format is referred to as a masked transcript, while transcripts that fully show all personally identifiable information are referred to as unmasked transcripts. The following information is visible on a masked transcript:
● Last four digits of any SSN on the transcript: XXX-XX-1234
● Last four digits of any EIN on the transcript: XX-XXX1234
● Last four digits of any account or telephone number
● First four characters of first name and first four characters of the last name for any individual (first three characters if the name has only four letters)
● First four characters of any name on the business name line (first three characters if the name has only four letters)
● First six characters of the street address, including spaces
● All money amounts, including wage and income, balance due, interest and penalties
Working at the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office I had the luxury for many years of having access to individuals with deep expertise in reading the IRS transcripts. Because I read them for many years and had numerous tutorials while working there, I have a head start on someone unfamiliar with the way the IRS records transactions. Learning how to read transcripts can unlock many secrets. We should probably have more CLE training on this “art” because there is much to learn. Kudos to the NTA for aiding in this process.