Practitioners can now obtain estate tax transcripts online through the IRS website, according to Catherine Hughes, estate and gift tax attorney-adviser in the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy. Hughes said that the tool was implemented on the IRS website on May 10 and that “I’ve been guaranteed that this works and hopefully it will be a benefit to everyone.”
Hughes said that in Notice 2017-12, issued in January 2017, the agency said that in lieu of closing letters, executors, local probate courts, state tax departments, and others can request an account transcript—a computer-generated report that includes the date on which the return was received, payment history, refund history, penalties assessed, interest assessed, the balance due with accruals, and the date on which the examination was closed.
Practitioners have expressed concern that states or financial institutions like brokerage firms that have traditionally required closing letters before releasing funds to beneficiaries may not accept the account transcript as a valid substitute. Hughes said she hopes those entities will come to see the transcript as a “good substitute.” In the meantime, practitioners still have the option to request a closing letter.
The transcripts can be accessed online by going to IRS.gov, typing “estate tax closing letters” in the search box on the upper-right-hand side of the homepage, and then selecting “Transcripts in Lieu of Estate Tax Closing Letters.” The link provides instructions for obtaining an account transcript.