I question whether this is true. It was true for years 2017 and earlier, when the extensions of these files were either .tax2017 or, going back even further, simply .tax. But I can't find .tax2018 or .tax2019 files, even though I can open them in TurboTax (!). To me it makes no sense. This is how I happened upon this:
I sometimes want to create dummy returns, to see what might happen if input were different. To do this I open up the "real" return and then immediately do a "save as" to a different name. I can see these multiple files in my Documents/Turbotax folder for years prior to 2018. Today I created a dummy file using this method, but I then decided I wanted to delete this dummy file. As far as I can tell you can't delete a file from within Turbotax, so I went to the directory of the C drive to find the data file, where I planned to delete it, and I find that there are NO .tax2019 or .tax2018 files anywhere to be found. (I did a global search.) Can anyone explain what changed in 2018 and where this data is being saved? I know that the file name which appears at the top of the screen in Turbotax shows a .tax2018 or .tax2019 extension but the file can't be found. By the way, I've set my options to show hidden files, so that's not the problem.
I do the same "what if" tax scenarios that you do. Like you, I could not open my 2019 tax file using the CD/Download software. After further searching the internet, I found no solution. Upon further thought I checked my backup flash drive that I use to maintain a backup separate from my laptop. I found the file on the flash drive. I had moved it there from My Documents folder. I don't know if this will help you, but was intrigued by your situation as I had the same issue.
If you moved (not copied) the files from the hard drive to a removable storage medium then that is where they are so if you want to open them you must MOVE them back to the hard drive so the program can find them. Pay attention to where you move them ... personally I just pop them on the desktop.
Thank you for your reply. Yes, I had a senior moment and had forgotten where I had moved the file. I did not have to move it back as TurboTax has a Find File option which allowed me to let TT retrieve the file from my flash drive. I do not have a password on my laptop and prefer not to leave some files on the PC.
How to access prior online returns
You have to log in to the same account. You need to start entering some basic Personal Info in 2021 for the side menu to open up. Just continue a little ways into 2021.
If you used the Desktop CD/Download program then the only copy is on your computer and not saved or stored online.
You can also request a transcript from the IRS