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Q: I am applying for a loan to buy a house and my schedule E is missing from my 2017 and 2016 tax returns. My CPA is on vacation and hasn't responded to my calls.

I've been contacting the IRS online, but it will only provide a tax transcript and not a full copy of my tax returns. Requesting a copy takes a form plus mail plus some amount of unknown time. Is there any other way to solve this problem? The lender insists on having the exact copy of the return, so he can see the numbers breaking down.

A: You may be out of luck. The short answer is that you'll probably have to wait for your accountant to come back unless you have an unsigned version of your tax return. Frequently, accountants will email a copy of the tax return to their clients for final review and approval and follow up with a paper copy for signature.

If you have an unsigned copy of your tax return, you might be able to sign that copy and deliver it to the lender to allow your loan to proceed. We're surprised that you only have partial copies of your tax returns. It's helpful to keep a full copy of the return or even just scan it in and keep a digital copy.

As we've explained in the past, before you apply for a loan you should have a list of all the documents you will need. For those who are unfamiliar with the process, a lender will want copies of:

• Your full tax returns for the last two years

• Copies of all of your bank statements, savings accounts, money market accounts and brokerage statements for the last two to three months before your loan application (include all the pages, even blank pages)

• Copies of your W-2 wage statements for the last two years

• Pay stubs for the last two years if your income varies due to overtime or other variables

• Copies of any retirement accounts

• Your landlord's contact information if you currently rent a home

• Copies of your business tax returns if your business income flows into your personal income

• K-1 tax forms, if you receive them from any of your investments

• A copy of any child support order

• A divorce decree, if you are divorced

• And, if you own a home, copies of your real estate tax bills, current mortgage statement, current insurance bill and copies of any assessment letters if you live in an association.

If you start out having all of the documents on this list, you should be a step ahead of the game. Remember, lenders are picky about documentation. If your statement has three pages of real information and seven pages of disclosures, blank pages and other miscellaneous information, your lender will want to see all 10 pages of the documents — and that's what you should plan to provide.

(If you're worried about saving trees, and you have digital copies of all these document, you can collect them into one digital file and email the folder itself or, if you have it in the cloud, a link to the file.)

So back to your question. If you can give your lender a signed copy of the tax return, the lender should be fine with that as long as it's identical to the one sent to the IRS. If you don't have any of those documents, you'll have to wait for your accountant to come back. You can order a copy of your tax return from the IRS, but it will take time. You can also go to an IRS office, and in some IRS offices they may have the ability to print out a copy of your return for you. Please call them before you go to make sure. Otherwise, it may take a while for you to get a copy of your tax return from the IRS by mail.

Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (4th Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through her website, ThinkGlink.com.