How to Find Your AGI for Taxes, Even if You Don't Have Last Year's Tax Return – CNET

You need your adjusted gross income from last year to e-file taxes. Learn how to find it, or what to do if you can’t.
Peter Butler
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I’m a writer/editor for CNET How-To and Money, living in South Berkeley, CA with two kids and two cats. I enjoy a variety of games and sports — particularly poker, ping-pong, disc golf, basketball, baseball, puzzles and independent video games.
The IRS uses last year’s adjusted gross income to double-check your identity.
The term « adjusted gross income, » or AGI, pops up frequently during tax season. It refers to the amount of your income that the IRS considers taxable for a given year.
Your AGI from the previous tax year is important for filing your taxes electronically — the IRS uses that number from the prior year as a method for verifying your identity. When e-filing your 2021 tax return, you’ll need to enter your 2020 AGI.
But what if you don’t have your tax return from last year? The IRS is still working through a backlog of 2020 tax returns. What if yours haven’t been processed yet? Or what if you didn’t file taxes at all last year? Read on to learn how to enter your AGI on your 2021 electronic tax return, regardless of your filing or tax return status for 2020.
For more, discover the best tax software for 2022, the biggest tax deductions for this season and the most important tax changes to watch out for this year.
Your total gross income includes all of your wages, salaries, dividends, interest, gambling winnings, retirement distributions, unemployment benefits — all of the money you bring in.
Your adjusted gross income equals all of that money minus income adjustments such as alimony, student loan interest payments and health savings account contributions. These income adjustments are not the tax deductions that determine your overall tax burden; they are deductions to your income that set the standard level at which you can be taxed.
If you have adjustments to your gross income, you will record them in Part II of IRS Form 1040 Schedule 1. The IRS offers a thorough lesson on these adjustments to income here (PDF).
If you have your tax return from 2020, you can find your AGI from that year on Line 11 of your 1040 form. 
If you don’t have last year’s tax return, don’t worry. Even though the IRS recommends keeping your tax returns for three years, you can also find that information on the IRS site using an online IRS account.
Creating an online account at the IRS website requires registering with ID.me, an identity verification service that has attracted attention lately for its facial recognition requirement via « video selfie. » To address privacy concerns, ID.me recently introduced the ability to skip the video selfie, but you will still need to provide your driver’s license and other personal information to create an ID.me account that is authorized for the IRS.
After you’ve created an account and logged into your IRS account, click View Tax Records and then the big blue button marked Get Transcript. On the next page, select Adjusted Gross Income from the drop-down list of reasons for needing a transcript, leave the Customer File Number box blank and hit Go.
On the resulting page, select 2020 under Return Transcript, which will spawn a PDF file showing a breakdown of your 2020 tax return. Scroll down to the bottom of the Adjustments to Income section to find your adjusted gross income for 2020.
If you don’t want to use an online IRS account, you can also request a tax transcript by mail or by calling the IRS automated phone transcript service at 800-908-9946.
Last year was an unprecedented tax season for the IRS — pandemic-related tax changes and staffing issues created a huge workload that the service is still churning through. At a Senate hearing in February, experts estimated the agency still had about 18 million unprocessed tax returns.
If your tax return from 2020 has not yet been processed, the IRS says to enter $0 for your AGI on your 2021 tax return.
If you didn’t file taxes last year, there’s nothing for the IRS to verify your AGI against to check your identity. However, if you did claim child tax credit payments or stimulus payments using the IRS’ nonfiler tool, you will need to include an AGI in your 2021 tax return. 
The IRS says that if you used the nonfiler tool to claim federal payments in 2021 but didn’t file a 2020 tax return, you should enter $1 for your AGI on your 2021 tax return.

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